The Spiritual Warfare Manifesto-FREE BOOK!

The Spiritual Warfare Manifesto

 Practical Lessons in Supernatural Christianity.  

The Spiritual Warfare Manifesto is a practical guide for Christian discipleship in the Spirit-filled life. The book focuses on the supernatural lifestyle of being a disciple of Christ and the practical application of His teachings, inspiring the Church to ready herself for the spiritual battles ahead.


          Hearing the term spiritual warfare, we tend to think only about prayer. While prayer is certainly important, it is only one of many essential aspects of our supernatural battle.   

Spiritual warfare is not a conflict between men but warfare against a spirit realm that can influence the thoughts and values of humanity. There are unseen spiritual beings and spiritual forces at work on the Earth to persuade men to think and believe anything other than the truth.

The warfare we see in the physical realm is a product of supernatural influence from the spirit realm. A significant part of our Christian experience is embracing a lifestyle of spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness. How we wage war now will have a tremendous impact on our eternal rewards and how we live out the rest of eternity.

God has given us the privilege of battling supernatural enemies to perfect our faith, providing spiritual tools and weapons to fight this warfare. Like any advanced military organization, we should be skilled with our weapons and trained in using all the tools God has provided us.

Spiritual warfare is a partnership with God that initiates redemptive solutions to fallen humanity’s challenges. As we co-labor with God in this warfare, He leads us to a place of complete dependence upon Him to exercise His kingdom authority on Earth. It is a beautiful mystery.

As the enemy tries his hardest to break us, he runs the risk of becoming the instrument needed to perfect our faith, unwittingly becoming a catalyst for our sanctification. God, in His infinite wisdom, has chosen to use men and women of faith to destroy the works of the enemy and expand the kingdom of God.

Satan has deceived the Church for far too long. I pray that by revealing his common deceptions, exposing his strategies, and bringing awareness of how to fight spiritual battles, many will become skilled spiritual warriors equipped to destroy the enemy’s works and expand God’s kingdom for His glory.

Partner with God and join me in the fight. It is a good one.


  1. The good fight
  2. Humility
  3. The manna principle
  4. Becoming child-like
  5. Breaking the yoke
  6. The religious spirit
  7. The mind of Christ
  8. Guarding your heart
  9. We become what we behold
  10.  Love and intimacy
  11.  The supply of the Spirit
  12.  The fiery trials
  13.  Reckon yourself dead
  14.  Sin distorts
  15.  Sword skills
  16.  Avoiding the itchy ear
  17.  The mark of a true disciple
  18.  Embracing stillness
  19.  The importance of watchfulness
  20.  Keep your finger on the ground
  21.  Spirit-led prayer
  22.  Pet sins
  23.  The new wineskin
  24.  Eyes that see, ears that hear
  25.  A kingdom divided
  26.  The fear of the Lord
  27.  Holiness

Chapter 1 – The Good Fight

The term spiritual warfare implies that we are in a fight. It is a hard fight, but a good fight. Don’t let anyone tell you that everything will be roses and sunshine when you become a Christian. The storm comes on the just and the unjust alike.

A good fight is one that we win, and yet a battle we are incapable of fighting on our own. We must partner with God, acknowledge Him as King, and submit to His leadership if we are to fight a good fight and lay hold of the promises of God.

1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV) Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

We see many examples of Israel’s physical battles in the Old Testament and how the Lord brought them to victory when they obeyed God and followed His instructions. We also see what happened when they did not follow God’s instructions or stepped out presumptuously to fight in their limited strength and understanding. Israel’s physical battles are types and shadows of the spiritual battles we must fight today. They are full of instruction and insight we must glean to wage effective warfare.

We will first explore aspects of the good fight that are foundational to being effective at spiritual warfare, helping us focus our attention on the battles that matter most. Being a good soldier requires maintaining specific lifestyle disciplines. Each chapter will focus on a particular discipline or understanding that will keep us in a state of readiness and constant awareness of the spiritual battles we all face.

Many self-professing Christians live without an awareness of the supernatural struggle between light and darkness. They do not view Christianity as warfare nor engage in the effort to live out the gospel. These are not good soldiers; they are no threat to the enemies’ kingdom and no help to the kingdom of God. They are fruitless branches that will be cut down and thrown into the fire. A good soldier lives his life engaged in spiritual warfare and bears much fruit.

Picking our fights

Not all fights are good fights, and not all fights are faith fights. We struggle to enforce the victory that has already been won for us by Jesus ChristIt is a fight to overcome darkness, destroy the works of Satan, and establish the kingdom of God and His government on Earth.

Israel fought to defend and expand a physical kingdom in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, our battles are for acquiring and developing an unseen realm, a spiritual domain. The kingdom of God is in the heart of every born-again believer. Spiritual warfare is all about stewarding the kingdom within us and allowing the kingdom to expand and overtake our entire being until it begins to flow out of us and impact the world around us.

Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV) Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Matthew 11:12 (NKJV) And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.

Luke 16:16 (NKJV) “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.

Spiritual warfare, like any warfare, requires fighting. Fighting people is undoubtedly not a good fight. If we find ourselves fighting against people, we are in the wrong battle and fighting for the wrong kingdom. One of the enemy’s many strategies is to trick us into fighting against other people so that we neglect or simply miss the spiritual battle around us. Expending our energy, resources, and time on fights we should not be engaged in brings confusion, division, weakness, and discouragement. The enemy is relentless in his efforts to keep us fighting against one another.

Spiritual warfare occurs in two arenas: the internal and external.

The first arena is the battlefield of self. We fight to tear down strongholds of carnal thinking and wrong beliefs in our hearts and minds. We fight this battle by renewing our minds through exposure to God’s word and fellowship with other believers. As we pursue a relationship with the Father, we find our calling and grow in the faithWe mature in Christ, becoming more prepared to fight in the other battle arena.

The second arena of spiritual warfare is against spiritual beings in our fallen world. In this arena, we fight primarily through prayer, intercession, and demonstration of the kingdom of GodAs we mature in Christ, our authority increases, and we become more effective at fighting in this arena and skillful at destroying the works of the devil.

Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

We don’t fight for victory; we fight from a place of victory. We must believe that our fighting bears fruit. Most of the time, we cannot immediately see the impact of our efforts in spiritual warfare. We must trust in God’s commandments, believing that our obedience is a partnership with His completed work.

 Victory has already been won through the blood of the Lamb. Our faith in Jesus Christ as our savior has won the battle for our eternal salvation. We did not fight to get ourselves saved. Jesus did the fighting for us. All we had to do was acknowledge His victory and His lordship.

1 John 5:4-5 (NKJV) For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faithWho is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Why are we still in a fight if the battle has already been won? While we remain alive on the earth, a raging battle continues. Satan resists the growth and expansion of God’s kingdom within us.

Galatians 2:20 (NKJV) I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

We fight to keep the faith, exercise our faith, and grow in faith until we have mastery over our flesh. We fight daily by picking up our cross and following Him.

Luke 9:23 (NKJV) Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

We now have the great honor of dying for the King. Once we die to ourselves, Christ shines the brightest in us, and we become the light of the world we were created to be.

Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV) “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Others will see the light of God in us and desire what we have. Some will see the light and be offended. Regardless of their response, we should keep on shining.

1 Peter 1:7 (NKJV) so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Warfare tests our faith. The testing of faith is the only “good fight” available to us. All other fights are distractions and deceptions of the enemy to keep us from dying to self and growing up into Christ in all things. Hebrews 12 uses the analogy of running a race to describe our spiritual battle.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV) Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Running a good race is fighting the good fight. Paul gives us further instruction in 1 Corinthians 9.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV) Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Notice in verse 26 that Paul calls this race a fight. He tells us that we run this race to win by disciplining our body and bringing it into subjection. He speaks of temperance and implies that confidence and skill are necessary. Paul is talking about our flesh, the fallen nature we were all born into under Adam.

When we discipline our bodies by fasting, prayer, denying our sensual impulsesand making no provision for the fleshwe limit the voice of our fallen nature and leave little room for Satan to have a voice. It is only through our carnal self that Satan can gain entrance into our lives.

Here is further instruction from the New Testament:

Romans 13:11-14 (NKJV)And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

Matthew 10:38 (NKJV) And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

James 4:4 (NKJV) Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Friendship with the world is spiritual adultery! Let that sink in.

Mark 8:38  (NKJV) For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

From the strong language in the above passages, we see the mandate of God to separate from the world and die to our selfish desires. We should never candy coat this. We must wake up daily and present ourselves before the Lord, laying our lives on the alter.

If we buy a house and pay for it in full, but the previous owner refuses to move out, we have a breach of contract, a violation of the covenant. We are His houseWe are His temple. He will not fully move into His temple until the carnal man dies and is removed from the premises. He will not share space with anything unholy. God is very particular about where He abides. We can see this clearly from the Old Testament Temples and the tent of meeting.

However, God is gracious. He is patient and kind. He gives us time to move out, time to die to ourselves, and time to grow spiritually. He has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and His word to help us remove everything in His temple that is not pleasing to Him. 

Thanks be to God!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NKJV) Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which is God’s.

Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

          We find a valuable truth in Exodus that will help us fight to keep the old man crucified.

In Exodus 33:18, Moses said to God, “please show me your glory.” This was God’s response:

Exodus 33:20 (NKJV) But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” 

Intimacy with God and exposure to His word is our carnal man’s face-to-face encounter with the Lord, and no man can see God and live. Approaching God daily with an unveiled face and beholding His glory crucifies the old man while at the same time transforming us into His image from one degree of glory to the next.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV) But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

God paid the ultimate price to restore the broken relationship caused by Adam’s sin. The sacrifice of Christ has provided the way back to the Father. It is a narrow road and one that the carnal man cannot walk. Let us nail our fallen nature to the cross and no longer live for ourselves. He is worthy of our life, and He is worthy of our death.

May God give us understanding in all these things.

2 Corinthians 5:15 (NKJV) He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

Chapter 2 – Humility

Spiritual warfare is not something we automatically know how to do when we are born again. We grow into it, learning and perfecting skills to walk in the victory that Christ has already won.

We should be learning more every day about God’s ways, the enemy’s strategies, and our role as soldiers in the army of God. Humility helps us better navigate these truths.

Spiritual warfare is not easy, yet we must embrace it as a lifestyle. Humility is the foundation on which all spiritual warriors must stand. Faithful obedience is the strategy by which we enforce the victory granted by inheritance. Humility will always lead us to obedience, and faithful obedience will always lead us to victory. Even a baby Christian can fight like the most skilled warrior if humble and obedient. 

When King David was just a boy, his humble obedience and zeal for God led him to slay a fully armored, fully equipped giant who was a skilled warrior from his youth. Humility, acquired through his relationship with God, gave David the proper perspective to see the victory in this situation, and he was able to slay this mighty warrior with a slingshot! (1 Samuel 17) His humility caused him to have a perspective that led him to a great victory for the entire nation of Israel and elevated him to a position of honor.

David loved God, feared God, and understood that God loved him.

“I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.” (Acts 13:22)

God is looking for people with humble hearts that dare to believe all things are possible. Faith like that can never be attained apart from humility.

Humility comes from loving and fearing God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and humility is an expression of wisdom and understanding. When we understand who God is, humility is the natural response.

Micah 6:8 (ESV) He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Notice that justice, kindness, and walking humbly before God is required. It is not a suggestion. If we lose sight of this, the enemy already has a grip on our hearts and minds. Living in the chaos that is ever-increasing in this world, it is easy to let these things slip and fall out of step with the truth. Moral decay is increasing rapidly across the globe. Humility is essential to guard our hearts against its influence.

Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV) Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.

If we are not selective about what we expose ourselves to, our hearts and minds are filled with things that weaken us and cause us to stray from the truth. Words, thoughts, and emotions are spiritual. We will enable the enemy to shape us into his image when we allow ungodly things in our eyes and ears. We are all clay, and we are constantly being shaped by something. We must be diligent in keeping our hearts pure to ensure that God is the one doing the shaping. When our heart is compromised, humility is one of the first things we sacrifice.

James 4:7 (NKJV) Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Submitting to God requires humility, and humble submission is simultaneously the act of resisting the enemy. Submitting and resisting is a one-step process. Not a two-step religious effort. Without humility, there is no resisting, just cooperation with the adversary.

James 4:6 (NKJV) But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

Any act of disobedience is an act of pride. It places us in a terrifying position that no Christian in their right mind would want to be in. A place where God is resisting us. Pride brings us into partnership with the enemy. We can’t fight the enemy if we partner with him, nor can we follow Christ.

Satan represents the opposite of humility. He is the father of selfish pride. The last thing he wants us to do is to submit entirely to God. Our surrendered life is the most frightening and destructive thing to the kingdom of darkness. When we are humble and wholly submitted to God, the devil and all his demons know who we are and tremble. We become a champion for the kingdom of God, vessels fit for the Master’s use, destroying the works of darkness.

Revelation 12:10-12 (NKJV) Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

The enemy knows his time is short. He uses all the deception in his arsenal to keep us from humbling and submitting ourselves entirely to God. We must come to a point in our lives where we “love not our own lives even unto death.” When we do, we begin to walk in proper kingdom authority and true ambassadors for Christ.

Being effective at spiritual warfare begins and ends with humility. Satan will continue to have his way with us if we don’t settle this in our hearts. Without humility, we will be deceived into doing his bidding, hurting others, and bearing fruit for his kingdom instead of the kingdom of God. It is a tragic reality that we all face.

2 Corinthians makes it clear that our war is not against people

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (NKJV) For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

A view of the Church these days looks very much like the world in this respect:

Because of pride and selfishness, we engage in heated political arguments, fuel racial tension, and despise authority. We give ourselves to watching ungodly shows and news networks that spew forth lies, stirring up anger and hate in our hearts. We use social media platforms to voice ungodly opinions and think we have a right to “straighten people out.” Doing this fuels emotional fires that cause us to look and act just like the world. It has destroyed our witness and hindered us from being fruitful. The 2020 presidential election exposed the Church’s weaknesses in these areas.

We don’t know God like we think we do. The truth is, we are far too familiar with a God we barely know. If one person could acquire all the knowledge in the world, that individual would still be an infant in their understanding compared to our eternal God.

Practice humility

          Humility is expressed verbally, spiritually, and naturally. We can do practical things to maintain and guard a humble perspective.

Submitting to authorities, deferring to an elder, how we refer to others in our conversations, and how we prefer others over ourselves are all actions of faith concerning humility. Our conduct will express our humility or the lack of it.

          How we approach God with our words and body language also speaks volumes. Kneeling to pray or laying face down on the floor in worship when no one else is looking is a physical expression of humility and an acknowledgment of His greatness. Not multi-tasking when we are in communion with Him. These are all expressions of humility and a living faith when done honestly.

Humility has a divine strength attached to it. It is time we gain some understanding, expose the enemy’s strategies, and push back the darkness encroaching on the Church. Then we will be able to help the world. It all starts with humility. Without humility, we will never become the “bride without spot or wrinkle.”

Chapter 3 – The manna principle

          We find one of the most fundamental truths about the Christian life in how God provided manna for Israel during their forty-year journey through the wilderness.

Exodus 16:4-5 (NKJV) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.”

          The purpose of the manna was not just to provide food for God’s people but primarily to test them in their faith and obedience. To see if they would follow God’s commands.

          God fed Israel supernaturally for forty years by raining down a fine bread-like substance from Heaven. It fell to the Earth every night for six days during the week. It fell in the form of tiny white specs and tasted like wafers with honey.

          The Israelites were commanded to collect about a half gallon of manna per person daily. On the sixth day, they were to gather a double portion because no manna fell on the sabbath day. Any leftover manna would stink and breed worms, so they could not live off the manna from yesterday. It must be gathered daily according to God’s instructions and a double portion for the Sabbath.

          What is this strange story telling us about our Christian life today? Every story, every interaction, and every encounter with God we see in the Old Testament is for our instruction in the New. Everything from Genesis to Revelation points to Christ and Christian living.

Romans 15:4 (NKJV) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. 

          The word “manna” means; “What is it?” That is what the Israelites said when they first saw it lying on the ground. Manna is a type of the Word of God.

Israel didn’t understand God’s reason for the manna, much like the modern Church does not understand the divine purpose and significance of the Word of God. Israel did not just disobey God’s instructions concerning the manna; they continually despised it and complained about it. They did not appreciate that God was demonstrating His daily love, care, and commitment to them through this bread-like substance that fell from Heaven.

Had Israel joyfully obeyed God’s instructions about the manna, they would not have wandered in the wilderness for forty years and died without ever reaching the promised land.

Christians behold God’s written word today and say the same thing in their hearts, “what is it? I don’t understand it. I have heard that before. It’s hard to swallow. I’m tired of eating the same old manna every day.”

The written word is here to test us in the same way that manna tested the Israelites. To see if we will keep and obey His commands. Most Christians don’t honor God’s Word properly nor understand that this is the very thing that gives spiritual life and health to the believer.

It is essential to notice that God commanded them to gather manna daily. The manna provided daily fuel and sustenance for their physical bodies. The written word provides the fuel and nourishment for the spiritual part of our being.

Think about the time and effort it would take to gather a half gallon of tiny white specks off the ground. It would undoubtedly take more than just a few minutes. God could have rained down manna the size of marbles or golf balls, but He didn’t. He chose to make it the size of a coriander seed so His people would have time to consider what they were doing and the significance of why they were doing it.

What about the amount of time spent kneeling or bowing down low in a position of humility to receive this precious manna? There is a reason and wisdom in how God does everything. The process of daily collecting bread from the ground is a prophetic example of how we are to approach God’s word.

Not properly appreciating the unleavened bread of the written word leads us to seek the leavened bread of entertaining teachers and preachers that make us feel good instead of transforming us into His image. Being spoon-fed leavened teaching causes us to have itchy ears and perpetuates a self-deception that disqualifies us from the blessings of the kingdom of God. We must collect our own manna if we are to grow strong spiritually

Despising the written word hinders us from hearing the spoken word when the Holy Spirit speaks to us in the “still small voice.” It also hinders intimacy with the Father.

Some would say, “I don’t despise God’s word!” Thinking that despising means to hate. Yet despising in biblical terms means to lightly esteem, to treat contemptible, or not to honor appropriately. God takes this personally. We despise the Lord when we do not show honor the His word. It is an act of unbelief that brings serious consequences.

God was not pleased with the generation of Israel delivered from Egypt. They continued to complain and desire to turn back to their old lives despite the supernatural demonstration of God’s love that they experienced daily. Their unbelief made judgment so severe that God let them die in the wilderness without ever reaching the promised land.

Suppose we desire our old lifestyle as the Israelites did—a life of slavery and forced labor. Or maybe we prefer to mingle bits of the old lifestyle into our Christian walk to make it more comfortable to our flesh and less challenging spiritually. In that case, we are in the same boat as they were. We must lay down our old life to embrace the new life promised in Christ Jesus. We are no longer slaves to sin, we are alive to God, and He has given us His word to make the transition complete

John 12:24-26 (NKJV) Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.

The old man must still die before we enter the kingdom of God, which is our promised land.

Despising the word of God still hinders us from receiving His promises in our lives today. He will not reward unbelief of any kind. Those that honor Him will be honored, and those that despise Him will be lightly esteemed (1 Samuel 2:30). It doesn’t mean we are not loved, and it doesn’t mean He won’t provide for us. It just means our hearts are not upright and are filled with unbelief. It also means that we disqualify ourselves from God’s full blessing.

Just because we have a promise from God and can quote the scriptures and make good confessions does not mean we will receive any of the promises of God if our hearts are not right before Him.

What does Israel’s manna story tell us about the living Word of God we have in the New Testament?

Eat my flesh, and drink my blood – the New Testament manna

          One of the most controversial messages that Jesus preached was at the synagogue at Capernaum, recorded in John chapter 6. In His message, Jesus declared Himself “the bread of life which came down from Heaven,” referring to the manna they were all familiar with. He told those listening that they had no life in them unless they ate His flesh and drank His blood. This sermon caused many of His disciples to stop following Him. He even asked His ministry team (the chosen 12 disciples) if they wanted to leave.

John 6:48-58  (NKJV) I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”

53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

          All those listening took Jesus’ words literally, but He was speaking by the Spirit and referring to spiritual things. So, what does it mean to “eat His flesh?”

          We must go back to the first chapter of John to understand precisely what Jesus is talking about. In the first few verses of the gospel of John, we see that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. If we jump down to verse 14, we see that the Word became flesh.

John 1:14 (NKJV) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Fatherfull of grace and truth.

          Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. The written word expresses God’s nature, will, thoughts, and desires for humanity. As our Creator, we should be very concerned about learning what He wants and how He thinks. We should hunger and thirst for ways to please Him.

The written word is here to test us, just like the manna from Heaven tested Israel to see if they would walk in obedience. God sees how much we love and respect His written word and how important His thoughts and desires are to us. Our relationship and perspective on the written word reveal how much we love and believe in Him. They are the same. Our love for God will never rise above our love for the Bible and all its precious treasures. It is the only book that is truly alive!

A “word” is a written or verbal expression of an idea that creates images in the minds of those that hear it. We use words to communicate with each other and share our ideas, feelings, thoughts, and intentions. Jesus is called the living Word because He is the expression of God, the communication of His thoughts, feelings, and intentions. A perfect representation of the Father’s mind toward us. Only through eating the bread from Heaven, The Word of Life, is the image of God restored to humanity.

          We are blessed in this generation to have the written word recorded and put into many easily accessible formats. The Greek word translated as “Word” in John 1:14 is “logos.” Logos is more than just the written word. It is the divine expression of God Himself, the communication of His nature and will. Above all other things expressed by words, the truth has the creative power to change the very nature of things exposed to it.

Everything in creation is subject to the truth of God’s word, and everything in creation must eventually align to that word or bow to it. We have yet to grasp the reality of just how powerful and significant the written word is.

          The Word (logos) was first spoken (Rhema), so it could be recorded. It was recorded to be continually eaten and digested, heard, and communicated.

The Word is still becoming flesh

God’s word still becomes flesh as we abide in it,  revealing God’s divine mystery in and through us as we embrace it.

Notice in John 1:14 that after the Word became flesh, we then beheld His glory. Glory, in this sense, means any made seen expression or revealed attributes of God. It means that the Word becoming flesh results in God’s glory being revealed.

Colossians 1:26-27 (NKJV) the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

          Christ in us is the Father’s hope of making Himself seen and known to the world through His chosen people. We are the hope of His glory revealed. This is one of the gospel’s great mysteries.

“Christ in us, the hope of making God seen and known to the world.”

          Israel remained bound by a slave’s mentality. They could not embrace their identity as chosen sons, partly because they despised the manna. Instead of being thankful for daily provision, they complained about it, not realizing that God was meeting them every day, trying to penetrate their hardened hearts by revealing His goodness and faithfulness. They refused to believe.

If we despise God’s written word today, we will not have the knowledge, understanding, or strength to believe and obey Him. Only by abiding in the truth of His Word will we be freed from the bondage of sin consciousness.

John 8:31-32 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

          To abide means to live. We must live in His word to be considered true disciples. Knowing the truth that sets us free requires living in that truth—not visiting it occasionally or residing in it part-time.

          The Christian life finds its highest expression by abiding in the truth of God. Only then will the glory of our freedom in Christ be revealed to the world, and only then will we become the express image of God’s person.

Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

          Do we truly understand the power of the living Word? Where is God’s word on our priority list? Are we abiding in the word or just incorporating portions of it into our lives where we think we need it?

          What are the three most important things in your life right now? The spouse and kids? The career? Hobbies? Financial security? All these things are important, but if the word of God is not above all these things on the priority list, you cannot love and steward those things to your highest potential.

          God has designed us in a way that requires dependence upon Him to reach our full potential and highest expression in this life. He has called us to partner with Him in this glorious faith journey. The life of God we experience on this journey is directly related to how much we abide in His Word.

John 15:7 (NKJV) If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

Jesus said when tempted by the devil, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

          The life of God comes from the word of God. Not listening to preachers and teachers; those are for our equipping. Reading books from our favorite Christian authors, watching Christian TV, or listening to Christian radio are all leavened bread and should be considered supplements to the pure spiritual food of God’s written word. We can survive off those other things, but we cannot thrive. The life of God comes from the unleavened bread of the Bible.

Just like a newborn baby will cry for life-giving milk every few hours, we should hunger and thirst for God’s holy word the same way.

 1 Peter 2:2-3 (NKJV) as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

          God’s word should be the joy and rejoicing of our hearts. The bread from Heaven gives us life and strength for spiritual warfare. If we are not fully engaged with God’s word, we will not be thoroughly equipped for spiritual warfare.

Jeremiah 15:16 (NKJV) Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.

The word of God gives us strength and faith to walk in obedience to His commands. God’s loving and merciful provision sustains us and proves our faith in Him. His mercies are new every morning, and we can find a significant portion of that mercy in His written word.

Romans 12:2 (NKJV) and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Transformation comes from a renewed mind. The renewed mind proves God’s will, breaks the yoke of conformity to this world, and transforms us into vessels of His glory.

He has given us His flesh and blood to consume in the form of His written word. The principle of daily manna tests us to see if we truly believe we are partaking of His divine nature when consuming the word of God.

1 Peter 1:2-4 (NKJV) Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

          All things pertaining to life and godliness have been given to us through the knowledge of Him. Knowledge of God acquired through His written word empowers us to be partakers of His divine nature.

How much do you believe? Are you interested in partaking in the divine nature of the Creator of the universe? What is your relationship with the written word? Do you understand the power and significance of what He has recorded for us?

Chapter 4 – Becoming childlike

Becoming childlike seems like an undesirable trait in warfare. However, in spiritual warfare, it can be the difference between a sweatless victory and a prolonged and challenging battle.

Jesus said if we don’t become like a little child, we will not enter the kingdom of God. That is a sobering statement that we should examine closely. Spiritual warfare can only be waged effectively by operating with kingdom authority and from a kingdom perspective. A childlike perspective is the most excellent kingdom perspective.

Matthew 18: 1-4 (NKJV) At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

It is critical to recognize that the phrase “kingdom of heaven” does not refer to eternal life or the place called Heaven but to the kingdom of God on Earth. We must rightly discern two expressions in the New Testament to understand this passage and many others. The phrases “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of Heaven.” These two phrases are always talking about the same thing, which is the kingdom of God on Earth.

The kingdom of God is any place on Earth where God’s rule and reign are acknowledged. Primarily it is in the hearts of men. The kingdom of Heaven is God’s dwelling place, where there is no corruption, no darkness, and no decay.

The phrase “the kingdom of God” is used almost 70 times in 10 different books of the New Testament. The term “the kingdom of Heaven” is used 32 times exclusively in the gospel of Matthew.

The explanation for this is simple. Matthew was a Jew. His audience was Jewish, and he was writing about Jesus, a Jew. Devout Jews at that time, and even today, have a holy reverence for mentioning the name of God. They will only utter or write the word God when there is no other alternative. I believe Matthew tailored his message to his audience so that the gospel would be easier to receive by the Jewish leaders of his time.

This is easily verified by looking at all the parables about the kingdom recorded in the gospel of Matthew. Most of them will not make sense any other way.

Anytime we see the phrase kingdom of Heaven used, we can safely replace it with the kingdom of God without any danger of adding to or taking away from the scriptures.

All the kingdom imagery and terminology we see in the Gospels is not about going to Heaven but about Heaven coming down to Earth.

Matthew 6:10 (NKJV) Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Earth is the domain of the kingdom of God. It is Heaven’s outpost, given to Adam for stewardship for a season, lost by Adam through deception and rebellion, redeemed through the blood of Christ, and is now under our stewardship. We gain our entrance and citizenship into Heaven by accepting Christ as Lord. We gain access to the kingdom of God by obeying like little children. The fullness of the kingdom of God will never become a reality if we don’t become childlike.

What does Jesus mean in Matthew 18:3 about entering the kingdom like little children?

Becoming childlike requires putting aside our free will and relying entirely upon the Holy Spirit’s direction. This way, our opinions, and misconceptions do not prevent us from trusting God wholeheartedly.

A child understands that they do not always know what is best. Children often have very little control over their own lives. They embrace the fact that they must put their trust in other people. They trust what their parents, teachers, or other adults say without doubts or fear. For example, when young children are shown something new they cannot explain, their eyes light up with wonder, marveling at the new revelation.

Adults, on the other hand, are far more skeptical than children. The childlike faith and sense of wonder are often lost as we grow up.

There is something essential about a childlike perspective that pleases the Father and empowers a person to enter the kingdom, but what is this youthful perspective that Jesus has in mind?

We throw terms around like “childlike faith,” but Jesus never mentions faith. He is answering a question about who will be the greatest in the kingdom of God. I am not saying that faith has nothing to do with it, but Jesus did not put emphasis on faith. He emphasized a perspective that significantly affects our ability to trust in Him.

Is it possible that becoming like a little child means that we maintain the sense of wonder and innocence of a child that living in this sinful world tends to squeeze out of us?

Could it be that Jesus is talking about living without being self-conscious, without guile, being open about our feelings and emotions, having an undefiled conscience, and living life with excitement and boundless energy? Could He be referring to childlike inquisitiveness, vivid imagination, and creativity? Or a heart that is humble, joyful, hopeful, tender, loving, gentle, quick to forgive, and willing to believe the best of every person?

These qualities tend to define a child but get quickly stripped from us as we mature and become more “self-aware,” encountering the sin and brokenness of our fallen world.

As we grow into adulthood, we become jaded and prideful. We hold grudges and stay angry, refusing to forgive. We quickly lose hope because our hopes are often dashed and destroyed. We allow negative emotions to rule us and let unimportant things matter more than what matters most. We lose our joy and live with a seared conscience.

Adults have trouble with new ideas. We tend to reject things we do not understand, hindering us from trusting in the seemingly impossible. Children do not behave this way. Neither did Jesus.

Does this mean Jesus lacked maturity? Did He lack wisdom and understanding? Jesus was full of wonder and hope for humanity. I believe Jesus lived in a constant state of awe and wonder. Jesus lived in awe of His Father, in awe of humankind, in awe of life, and awe of His Father’s creation.

Anyone who witnessed how Jesus lived began to see how we should live our lives. I believe this made Him the most attractive person on the planet. Jesus revealed to us how God intended life to be lived on this earth. The life of Jesus is the perfect example of childlikeness. His life is perfect theology.

Hebrews 1:9 (NKJV) You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

Many of us have difficulty seeing Jesus as joyful and childlike. Yet, some fruits of the Spirit are gentleness, meekness, and joy. I think His fruit was probably ripe and could easily be harvested just by being in His presence.

People began to see the rule and reign of God’s kingdom unfold before their eyes as Jesus started to embrace His earthly ministry with a demonstration of the kingdom of God and power. Signs and wonders were the fruit of His childlikeness before the Father

Jesus modeled the life we should live and invited us to follow Him. He taught us that if we want to experience the kingdom of God in this life, we need to become like little children.

Becoming childlike will require us to adjust our thinking and beliefs about ourselves. We must acknowledge our ignorance and inadequacy to fulfill all that God has called us to do. Every positive and fruitful thing in our lives results from His involvement. Any impact we have on others to bring them closer to God is a fruit of His divine influence.

We must never trust our strength, gifting, spirituality, experience, or maturity. The more influence we have, the more humility is required to wage the good warfare. Making a habit of inquiring of the Lord in all situations is an act of sincere humility. Asking for instruction and permission from the Father is an indicator of childlikeness. Look at king Solomon’s example.

1 Kings 3:7 (NKJV) Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.

          King Solomon, the wisest and richest man on the planet, acknowledged that he was but a child. He admitted his ignorance and inadequacy to the Father. Let’s look at 1 Chronicles to see the bigger picture.

2 Chronicles 1:7-12 (NKJV) On that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask! What shall I give you?”

And Solomon said to God: “You have shown great mercy to David my father and have made me king in his place. Now, O Lord God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude10 Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?”

11 Then God said to Solomon: “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life—but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king— 12 wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.”

          God appeared to Solomon and told him to ask for something. Notice He didn’t tell Solomon what to ask. He was testing Him to see where his heart was. Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge to properly lead and judge God’s people. He asked for something to help him fulfill God’s desires instead of his. He admitted that no man could lead God’s great chosen people and asked the Father for help.

          Solomon’s request honored God like a child would honor his father. His request revealed his heart, and God was pleased. Like any good father who rewards a child for doing something pure, sincere, and heartwarming. God blessed him with more incredible wealth and influence than any other man on the planet.

          Have you ever seen young children that mimic their parents? They imitate their parents because they are their models for behavior. How they talk, how they walk, how they behave. They do this because they want to grow up and be like mom or dad. Deep down inside, they believe that by acting like them, they will become like them.

Ephesians 5:1 (NKJV) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.

          Notice the Bible does not say to imitate God like a comedian doing impressions of famous people or a parrot repeating what they hear their masters say. The imitation that God requires from us is precise. We are to imitate Him like a dear child that wants to grow up and be just like daddy. God is looking for sincere childlikeness.

I encourage you today to get alone with God and don’t bring a prayer list. Just come to Him as a child that loves His Father and wants to be just like Him. Ask Him to help you be more childlike and ask a bunch of questions. Be open, vulnerable, humble, and forgiving. Tell Him what you struggle with, what makes you happy, and what you would like to change about yourself. He’s a good listener.

Be attentive to His voice, practice being still in His presence, and listen with the expectation of Him speaking to you.

The first step in becoming more childlike is to spend time with Him and allow Him to father us. Embrace His love, invite His correction, pursue His instruction, and believe that change is coming.

Chapter 5 – Breaking the yoke

One of the devil’s favorite strategies is to subtly yoke us to his work without us even realizing it. He brings thoughts to us that magnify the offenses and slights of others. He does his best to make us dwell on negative things until we reveal with our mouths that the thoughts he is whispering in our ears are bearing fruit.

In this chapter, we will see how the Devil tricks us into abandoning humility, putting on his yoke, and partnering with him.

It is terrible to realize that Satan has deceived us to the point of cooperation with his plans. We must not be ignorant of his devices. (2 Corinthians 2:10-11)

Satan is called “the accuser of our brethren.” The accusation goes on day and night before the throne of God.

Revelation 12:10 (ESV) And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

One way Satan accuses us day and night before God’s throne is to use God’s people to do his accusing for him. By doing this, he deceives us into wearing his yoke.

He persistently bombards us with judgmental thoughts, accusations, thoughts of un-forgiveness, anger, jealousy, and bitterness. He plays past and future scenarios in our minds, trying to trick us into making it all about ourselves. He deceives many of us into turning inward and becoming insecure, self-focused, and self-centered. This is the fruit of pride and causes our Lord to resist us. It is a scary thought.

We identify pride and selfishness by the way we think of ourselves. What I deserve, what I need, why I can’t, what I believeand what I am entitled to. The more self-centered we become, the smaller our world becomes.

The smallest world we can possibly live in is the one we are the center of.

Without humility, we will likely be yoked to Satan and his agenda. Isaiah 58 speaks of this yoke.

Isaiah 58:9 (ESV) Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am. If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

The yoke is described as “pointing the finger and speaking wickedness.” It is an accusing, critical spirit, a spirit of superiority. It is the fruit of a prideful heart and dead give-away that we have yoked ourselves to the enemy’s work.

A yoke is a device that allows animals to be bound together to share the workload. A critical, judgmental spirit tethers us to Satan’s work so that we share his workload and bear fruit for his kingdom. No wonder God resists the proud.

1 Peter 5:5-6 (ESV)Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

When we have a critical spirit, we quickly criticize others while not being very critical of ourselves. We busy ourselves looking for specks in other folk’s eyes and are blinded by the massive log in our own. Pride blinds us to truth and makes us short-sighted.

Matthew 7:5 (ESV) You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Humility will always be the place with the greatest illumination and clearest perspective.”

Being overly mindful of what is not right in others causes us to forsake the Spirit of reconciliation and embrace a perspective apart from love and grace.

Consider this; If we wrongly criticize someone’s child, who will be the first to take offense? The parents. Our Father is the same way. When we judge God’s children, we are judging Him. When we judge our leaders, we are judging His leadership. When we criticize the brethren, we say in our hearts that God’s workmanship is not up to our lofty standards. It is a twisted perspective that is anti-Christ.

James 4:10-12 (ESV) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. 11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

When we judge others, we not only speak evil of the law and pass judgment on the law but the lawgiver as well. When we judge others, it is a dead giveaway that we carry the burden of a sin-consciousness and are bound to the enemy’s work.

It is crucial to understand how the enemy works in these areas so we can recognize when we are being attacked and keep ourselves from being yoked to his plan. We must keep ourselves from becoming a child our Father resists.

With over two hundred Christian denominations in America, is it possible that our judgments against other groups of believers have blinded us from seeing this critical spirit in ourselves?

Are we so arrogant to believe that there are not people in every denomination that genuinely love God? Is their deception any worse than ours? If we are pointing fingers and speaking wickedness about them, are we not in worse shape than they?

We are yoked with the enemy if we participate in the above scenarios. However, we don’t have to stay yoked. We can break it with simple, sincere repentance. There is no demonic power that can stand against it. When we humble ourselves and repent, God stops resisting us and becomes our champion!

We must be in close relationship with other believers with a license to speak into our lives. Truthfully, we need the help of others to keep us on track in this area because it slips into our thinking so subtly. No one has to fight spiritual warfare alone.

Our thought life is the primary battlefield in spiritual warfare. We must guard our minds and take deceptive, critical thoughts captive before they take root in our hearts.  

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV) For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 

A close relationship with the Lord empowers us with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and it is the anointing that breaks the yoke(Isaiah 10:27) So if we find ourselves bound to the enemy, we just run to the Father, humble ourselves, repentand destroy the yoke.

Chapter 6 – The religious spirit

Another of Satan’s favorite deceptions is tricking God’s people into religious activity in church instead of becoming the Church.

Romans 5:5 (ESV) and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Satan fears love because God is love. He attacks our understanding of love by perverting our ideas about Christ and the Father. One of the ways he does this is through religious spirits.

A religious spirit holds to the letter of the law instead of embracing the heart of the law. We see clear examples of this in the Pharisees and Sadducees. A religious spirit renders the Church weak and powerless by quenching the Holy Spirit’s ministry through believers and replacing it with a works mentality. It promotes a slave mentality instead of a son/daughter mentality. It causes us to serve God for approval instead of serving Him from a place of acceptance.

Unfortunately, most of the Church is in some form of bondage to these religious spirits.

Knowing God and understanding who we are in Him hinges on our understanding of love.

Satan consistently attacks our identity as sons and daughters of God by bringing  His Love into question and preventing us from experiencing it firsthand. Through religious spirits, he snares us with the subtle seeds of pride until we are blind to the fact that the Father is resisting us in many areas.

Religious spirits are manifest in many ways. Still, one of the most obvious is to substitute the demonstration of God’s kingdom with power for religious activity. Religious spirits find their expression in “the leaven” of false teachings and doctrines of devils.

Matthew 16:6 (ESV) Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Jesus called their teaching “leaven” because it added no substance, life, or value to the church. Instead, it was puffed up with religious pride, promoting the traditions of men and focusing on works and religious activity. It holds to a form of godliness but denies the power of the Holy Spirit. (2 Timothy 3:1-7)

Many times, a religious spirit will attach itself to us even though we love God and are zealous for God and His kingdom. Look at what Paul said about his Jewish brothers.

Romans 10:2-4 (ESV) For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Just because someone has a religious spirit does not mean they don’t love God. The Jewish people prayed, fasted, and read the scriptures more than anyone. They were zealous for God and the coming Messiah but were bound by religious spirits and did not recognize Jesus when He came. They opposed Him in His ministry and eventually killed him. This gives us an idea of how blinding and deceptive religious spirits can be.

Notice in the above passage that their “zeal was not according to knowledge,” and they were ignorant (no knowledge) of the righteousness of God. Ignorance is easily fixed in most cases, but religious spirits resist any doctrine that challenges them and calls for change and repentance. Those bound by religious spirits are easily offended and quick to defend their theological positions.

Our imputed righteousness is one of the foundational truths that solidify our identity in Christ. Without an understanding of righteousness, we will not submit to it. Without submission to righteousness, our identity as sons and daughters will never become clear. Satan fights desperately to keep us from this particular truth because it is the foundational message of the gospel. He knows that if we ever find out who we are, we will destroy his works just like Jesus did. (1 John 3:8)

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

We must become the righteousness of God while being patient with those afflicted with religious spirits, giving them time to gain understanding and repent. This does not mean we should endorse, support, or tolerate their ministry while we are being patient with them. The Lord even gave Jezebel “time to repent” (Revelation 2:20-21). Yet, He still rebuked the church for tolerating her and her ungodly activities.

Here are some of the tell-tale signs of a religious spirit:

  1. A belief that our ministry is to expose others and their “false doctrines.”
  2. Pride in our spiritual maturity or our giftings.
  3. Living in condemnation and shame, believing we will never measure up to God’s standards.
  4. A mechanical prayer life that goes through the motions without being intimate with the Father.
  5. Glorying in what God has done in the past more than what He is doing now.
  6. Doing things so people will notice.
  7. Overreacting to those who are immature in the Lord.
  8. Overreacting to carnality in the church.
  9. Engaging in emotionalism and calling it the Holy Spirit.
  10.  Inability to take correction from peers or leaders.
  11.  A tendency to reject any manifestation of the Holy Spirit we don’t understand.
  12.  Knowing a lot about God but not knowing Him intimately.

I must confess that I have been guilty of all 12 items on this list, and I am sure there are other indicators of which I am unaware. I am grateful the Lord has been patient with me, giving me time to repent. It was not until I humbled myself and sought intimacy with the Lord that freedom came. Intimacy will transform us quicker than anything.

Without intimacy with God, breaking free from a religious spirit can be challenging and virtually impossible to stay free. A lifestyle of intimacy with Him is the best first step toward freedom in any area.

We don’t reproduce without intimacy. If we are not intimate with our Lord, we won’t produce the fruit of who He is in our lives. Let us ensure we cultivate a close relationship with God first, so we can lead others to do the same.

Intimacy with the Father is a motive purifier and an identity clarifier, our best protection against religious spirits.

Chapter 7 – The mind of Christ

Those in the military know that following orders, no matter what they are, is non-negotiable. There is harsh punishment for disobeying orders. An authority questioned or challenged in the heat of battle endangers everyone. Insubordination is not tolerated at any level.

The higher the rank, the harsher the punishment, and the greater the consequences. The more military authority one has, the more potential casualties are caused by disobedience. In like manner, the more authority and influence we have in the body of Christ, the more people get hurt from our disobedience. In spiritual warfare, we must always be mindful that what we do affects the rest of the body.

I have seen churches split and even destroyed because of the disobedience of a leader. The damage is always compounded when exposed publicly.

A soldier must trust in the orders given by the Lord and follow those orders even when He disagrees, even if it means his death. Understanding can usually wait; obedience cannot.

Philippians 2:8 (ESV) And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus was a good soldier. What we see in His life, we should model in ours. If our doctrine does not align with what we see in Christ’s life, it is time to change our beliefs. Jesus and His life is perfect theology. We should be diligent in observing His life and follow in like manner.

Understanding the mind of Christ is foundational in spiritual warfare. The mind of Christ is summed up in one profound idea. One simple thought.

I can do nothing of myself.”

John 5:30 (ESV) “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 5:19 (ESV) So, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

John 6:38 (ESV) For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 4:34 (ESV) Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

Jesus ultimately submitted His will to the will of the Father. He not only emptied Himself of His divine rights and privileges as God, but He also emptied Himself of His rights and privileges as the Son of Man. This is how Jesus walked in divine authority on the earth. He laid down His crown as King of the Universe to be crowned as the Son of Man, and then He laid down that crown at the feet of the Father as well. It is mind-boggling! It is our example to follow.

Our ability to say “no” to God confirms that we are sovereign beings. We must cast our sovereign crowns at His feet, understanding that we are here for His good pleasure, no matter what that looks like.

The blood of Christ has purchased our lives. We have been redeemed. He is worthy of our life, and He is worthy of our death. We are not wholly submitted to His authority until we die to our fallen nature.

We would all like to believe that we are entirely submitted to God, but submission is only revealed when there is a conflict of free will. We never know if we are submitted until we disagree. Even if we agree, it can still be challenging to follow orders. Jesus shows us exactly what that looks like.

Luke 22:41-44 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

There is so much wisdom and instruction to glean from this passage of scripture. Jesus knew His calling. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy. After He declared, “not my will, but yours be done,” an angel appeared to strengthen Him. Even then, He was in great agony and had to pray more earnestly to settle this in His heart.

How intense was this prayer? What kind of conflict was going on in His soul that caused Him to sweat blood? How hard was it to see and know the terrible torture and death He must endure and still obey the Father? He could not do this on His own. Without humility and intimacy with the Father, even Jesus would not have been able to endure it. We must follow His example.

Prayer is vitally important in spiritual warfare, but praying a lot does not make us “prayer warriors.” Humble submission to the will of the Father and Spirit-empowered prayer does.

1 Corinthians 2:16 (ESV) For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Notice it says, “we” have the mind of Christ, not “you” or “I.” Understand this about the mind of Christ; “I can do nothing of myself” does not just mean that I can do nothing without the Father. It also means that I can do nothing without relationships with my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. I will need others to help me accomplish all God has planned and wage a good warfare.

God has designed us to live in a community. Partnering with His work will require a whole village. Assembling forces us to be relational, and relationship with other believers is one way we connect with the Father. A single body part cannot live and function independently apart from the rest of the body.

Even Jesus needed John the Baptist to go before Him to prepare people for His coming. He needed the disciples to help Him with His earthly ministry while He was alive and continue His ministry after His death and resurrection.

There is nothing more connected or co-dependent on planet Earth than the body of Christ. We are more connected than the molecules that make up the human body. Maybe this is why He used man’s body to explain how the body of Christ works.

Effective spiritual warfare requires us to have the mind of ChristUnderstanding that we can do nothing of ourselves puts us all on a level playing field concerning our faith, from the faithful saint who has served God for decades to the newborn babe in Christ. We can all engage in community and bring our contribution while gleaning from the collective supply of others.

A babe does not have the same level of authority but has the mind of the Spirit. We grow in knowledge and understanding as we renew our minds to God’s word. As our faith is tested, we gain experience fighting the good fight, our kingdom authority increasesour contribution to the body and the world increases, and our capacity to receive spiritual supply from the body increases.

Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Being a good soldier takes training, discipline, diligence, and sincere humilityThe Lord will test us to see how ready we are for battleWe should always embrace testing. It is the tests and trials that refine us, perfecting our faithSome of our most significant tests will come when we don’t even realize we are being tested. Remember that a test of character will usually come in the form of a “pop quiz.”  

The Lord’s prayer takes on new meaning when we have this perspective.  

The Lord’s Prayer (The Soldiers Prayer)

Matthew 6:9-13 Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

(Acknowledge His authority and holiness)

10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

(Pray for the advancement of His kingdom and cast our crowns at His feet, relinquishing our ability to say no to Him)

11 Give us this day our daily bread,

(Our bread is to do the will of our Father)

12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

(Walk in forgiveness toward others and ask for His mercy to cover our mistakes and sins)

13 And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

(Ask for His leadership and protection from the enemy, trusting that the Father knows what he is doing)

Chapter 8 – Guarding your heart

In spiritual warfare, the enemy’s point of attack is our minds. However, our mind is not his primary target. His objective is to gain entrance into the garden of our hearts. Our heart is the soil where God’s seed, the Holy Spirit, is planted.

Satan wants to keep that seed from growing by planting tares and weeds to choke it and keep it from receiving water and light. It is the heart he wants to corrupt because from our heart springs forth the life of God.

When life springs from our hearts, God’s seed gets planted in other people’s hearts. The energy of God that flows from our relationship with Him waters and shines a light on other men’s hearts, making them stronger, causing growth, multiplying God’s army, and growing His influence.

Satan is after our hearts to corrupt what God has planted there. We must be vigilant to guard ourselves against the many deceptions that the enemy throws at our minds and deny him entrance.

Proverbs 4:23 (ESV) Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.

Satan will bombard our minds with negative thoughts and sensual ideas to stir our emotions to the point of reaction. Emotional warfare is spiritual warfare. Thoughts and words are spiritual, so he pressures us with ungodly thoughts in the hope of us reacting with words and actions. It is our own words that defile us and allow Satan an entrance into our hearts.

Our words tell him where we are weak, where to focus his attacks, and whom he may devour. The devil roars in our minds like a lion, seeking whom he may devour. He is looking for those that open their mouth to show him where he can plant his seed. Once he gets seed into our hearts, he waters that seed with more thoughts until it produces the fruit of more words and actions. It is a devious and highly effective plan.

1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) Be sober minded, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

How do we guard our hearts and minds against his relentless attacks on our minds and emotions? Philippians 4 holds a vital key.

Philippians 4:6-9 (ESV) do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these thingsWhat you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Being prayerful and thankful defends us against many of these attacks, but that is not enough. We must choose what we think. Satan will take us captive in our minds if we do not take negative thoughts captive and bring them into obedience to our revelation of Jesus Christ. Once our minds are captive, he has access to our hearts.

When the enemy roars the loudest, we must force ourselves to think about pure, praise-worthy, positive, and life-giving things. We can’t just think good thoughts; We then must give voice to those thoughts. This is the practice of “taking every thought captive to obey Christ.”

When we catch Satan attacking our minds with negative thoughts, we resist him by giving voice to the opposite. When he brings thoughts of unforgiveness against another person, we thank God for that person out loud and pray earnestly for them. If we have negative thoughts about ourselves, we thank God for who He has made us to be, thanking Him for the work He is doing in our lives, asking Him for comfort, confirmation, and revelation of who He has created us to be. We do this with our voice, not in our thoughts.

When facing trials and tests that could mean life or death, the enemy fills our heads with negative scenarios and dreadful possible outcomes. When this happens, and it will, thank God for His goodness. With our mouths, we affirm our trust in Him and give Him glory for the honor of being tested. Choose to believe, and speak it out of the abundance of the belief.

Luke 6:45 (ESV) A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

The Preparation of Peace

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV) For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 

Our strength and effectiveness in spiritual warfare are only as great as our ability to control our thoughts and take them captive to the obedience of Christ. When we practice taking captive every thought and checking every I.D. like a bouncer at our minds’ door, God will be present with us to guard our hearts and minds with His peace.

I find it interesting that the part of God’s armor that protects our hearts is worn on our feet.

Ephesians 6:15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

I asked the Lord years ago, “why is peace on our feet?” He then asked me a question. “Why do you put shoes on?” I said, “to protect my feet.” The Lord said, “peace is to protect your walk.”

One of the main things the army teaches you in boot camp is that you must be diligent in protecting your feet. Suppose your feet are not in good shape. In that case, your ability to fight is limited, your mobility is compromised, your effectiveness is limited, and often you require help from other soldiers to transport you and protect you, taking them away from their assignment.

It is much worse in spiritual warfare. When our heart is wounded, hardened, jealous, bitter, resentful, or self-seeking, we become not only prey for the enemy but also a weapon he can use to hurt others. James 3 tells us how serious this is.

James 3:13-17 (ESV) But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, butis earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

When selfishness, bitterness, and jealousy enter our hearts, they will come out in our words and actions. When that happens, we become a landing strip for demonic activity. We don’t just open the door to demonic influence; we send out invitations.

Guarding our mouths is a massive part of protecting our hearts. Words have creative or destructive power. Words can minister grace, peace, and life, or they can minister death and invite demonic activity. When we give voice to thoughts that the enemy is attacking our minds with, we take that evil seed and plant it in our hearts.

The entire Bible is replete with passages warning us and encouraging us about the power of our words. Here are just a few.

Proverbs 18:21 (ESV) Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Whatever we give ourselves to talking about, we will eat the fruit of it.

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV) Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

We can minister God’s grace with our words.

Matthew 12:37 (ESV) for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Proverbs 13:3 (ESV) Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.

James 1:26 (ESV) If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

If we don’t take thoughts captive, we won’t be able to keep a rein on our tongues and deceive our hearts. It does not say, “the devil deceived our hearts.” We are responsible for the deception we are in if we don’t keep a rein on our tongue. The Devil’s goal is to get us to willingly use our own words to bring about the corruption and defilement of our hearts. When this happens, our religion is worthless.

Matthew 15:16-20 (ESV) And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

Words are what defiles us, and words come from the heart. We must be prayerful, thankful, peaceful, and careful with words. If our heart is at peace, we can easily fend off the enemy’s demonic attacks on our minds. Above all, we must protect our hearts.

“Words are seeds that do more than blow around.

They land in our hearts and not on the ground.

Be careful what you plant and be careful what you say.

You might have to eat what you planted one day.”

-Author unknown-

Chapter 9 – We become what we behold

Another powerful principle about spiritual warfare is that we become what we behold.

That statement is a biblical paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 3:18

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV) But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Spiritually speaking, we are all creatures of clay, molded by what we give our attention to. What we behold shapes us, for better or for worse. This principle carries massive implications living in a media age driven by entertainment that has no filter and accountability. Our ability to behold the most ungodly things of this world is right at our fingertips through our cell phones and computers.

Luke 11:34-37 (NKJV) The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

The eye is the lamp of the body. The light of God comes into our hearts by what we behold. Darkness comes in the same way.

When we live a lifestyle of beholding both light and darkness, we become double-minded, unstable, and filled with doubt. (James 1:6-8 )

All selfish, lustful desires come from our fallen man. Self is the only arena Satan can gain access into our lives. He entices us with the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and selfish pride. These are the worldly attributes of his nature. They are anti-Christ, and he understands them well.

1 John 2:16 (NKJV) For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

Man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27); however, after the fall of Adam, all men were born with a fallen nature. The enemy attacks us through the weakness of our fallen nature, tricking us into doing his bidding. As we unwittingly behold every vile thing he has produced and every destructive image he has created, he scoffs at us as we allow ourselves to be shaped into his likeness. It is the same trick he used on Eve in the garden. It is his most significant and most successful deception.

James 1:13-15 (NKJV) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Satan is relentless in his attempts to draw us into temptation, enticing us to violate our conscience with sin. We cannot let our guard down for a moment. He desires to defile and compromise our relationship with the Father by making us feel condemned and unworthytricking us into unbelief.

Christ has redeemed man to restore his relationship with the Father and restore the image of God in man. This wonderful salvation came at a terrible price that freed us from the power of Satan, the god of this world. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Although our salvation was purchased and paid in full by the blood of the Lamb, we must walk it out in the wilderness of a fallen world. If we give ourselves entirely over to Christ’s rule, we can quickly enter the promised land of the kingdom of God. When we refuse to submit to God completely, we allow the enemy to continue in His deceit, suppressing the Spirit of God in us and keeping us wandering in the wilderness.

Galatians 5:1 (NKJV) Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

We get entangled and yoked to the enemy by beholding the wrong things and allowing him to shape us instead of the word of God and the glory of God.

Galatians 5: 16-17 (NKJV) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 

We all have flesh, and we must all die to it daily. It is the way of a good soldier, a spiritual warrior. It is Christ’s way, the way back to the Father.

John 14:6 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Keeping our eyes and our attention on the Lord must be the priority. Beholding Him through worship, prayer, reading scripture, and quiet meditation on Him and His word are all essential for denying self and transformation into His image.

Psalm 16:8 (NKJV) I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

The closer our relationship is with the Lord, the more capable and confident we are during trials and difficulties in our life. It enables us to see a bigger picture and empowers us spiritually to operate above natural expectations. We bounce back from pain and tragedy faster. We become quicker to love and slower to anger, and the storms of life do not easily shake us.

Why? Because we cannot behold Him and come away unchanged. It is impossible to behold the living God and remain the same. Beholding Him will cause us to step into our identity as sons and daughters of God while also dying to our old nature.

The opposite is also true. We cannot continue to behold the world and come away unchanged. It is impossible to behold evil and remain the same. We become what we behold.

1 John 2:15 (NKJV) Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

If we become friends with the world, we make ourselves the enemies of God. This scripture warns us that God’s love in our hearts becomes compromised if we continue to crave the ungodly things of this world.

We must stop beholding the world and all its foolishness!

Why would we want to be entertained by the unbelieving world so much? Why are we so hooked on television, video games, and movies filled with the world and its ungodly practices? Why do we crave music filled with things we know are offensive to God? Might there not be some insight here as to why we live in weakness and failure and succumb to the temptations of our flesh?

Don’t be deceived into thinking, “I’m not the least bit affected when I watch or listen. I can handle it.” We become what we behold. It is a spiritual law that we cannot escape.

Let us take an honest look at our lives. How much time do we spend seeking His face? How much time do we spend beholding the world? More importantly, do we genuinely want to change?

How do we change? Behold the glory of God and guard our hearts against beholding the world.

I will leave you with these three scriptures to ponder:

James 1:23-25 (NKJV) For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

John 17:16-19 (NKJV) They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

Matthew 6:22-23 (NKJV) “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “The focus of our attention will shape the object of our affection. We become what we behold.”

Chapter 10 – Love and intimacy

Love is at the heart of intimacy. The more we love someone, the closer we desire to be with them, and the closer we allow them to us. We cannot be intimate with a person we don’t love. The more we love someone, the more we trust and believe in them. This is why faith only works by love.

Galatians 5:6 (AMP) For [if we are] in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but only faith activated and expressed and working through love.

Our faith will only rise to the level of love we have for God.Faith works in direct proportion to our love for Him. Our love for Him is made known through our obedience to His word. Jesus is God’s word made flesh. (John 1:14)

As Jesus was preparing himself for the cross, He was also preparing His disciples for when He would not physically be there with them. We see in John 14 a marvelous dialogue between Jesus and his disciples. Pay attention to the emphasis of this chapter.

John 14:15 (NKJV) “If you love Me, keep My commandments.

John 14:21 (NKJV) He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

John 14:22-23 (NKJV)Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”

23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 

Judas asked a crucial question. “How will You manifest yourself to us and not the world?” Jesus said, “by loving me” (my paraphrase). Then He told us that love for Him is expressed through obedience to His word.

In verse 23, we have a fantastic promise that God will make His home in us if we love Him like this. I can’t think of a more powerful promise in the entire Bible.

Our New Testament command is to love. According to the three verses above, our love for God is demonstrated by obedience to His word. Obedience is our most significant act of faith. Without obedience, Jesus said we do not love Him. For the most part, the Church has not let that sink in.

Intimacy with God requires obedience. Obedience is God’s “love language.”

Years ago, in a private time of worship and prayer, I blurted out, “Lord, I love you so much!” He then said, “How much do you love me?” Without hesitation, I said, “With all my heart Lord!” He spoke again, “Jack, that is not enough.” It felt like a punch in the gut, but He immediately brought this scripture to mind.

Mark 12:30 (NKJV) And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

I then realized that “loving God with all my heart is only 25% of what this verse commands me to do.” God showed me that I was created to love Him as He loves me. With every fiber of my being.

Honestly, I had to ask the Lord to show me how to love Him with my soul, mind, and strength. If fact, this happened over 25 years ago, and I am still processing this truth.

The chief expression of love is selfless giving (“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son”). We must have the courage to ask ourselves; What are we giving our soul, emotions, and mind to? What do we give our strengths, giftings, and talents to? What do we give our time and attention to? What we love and worship can be identified by what we offer most of our time and attention to.

John 15:9-14 (NKJV) “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 

Our experience of God’s nearness or distance doesn’t indicate His actual proximity to us but our level of intimacy with Him. The more we love God, the more intimate we will be with Him. It is often due to a lack of intimacy when we feel distant from God.

Intimacy is the highest level of communion in any personal relationship. It requires honesty, humility, vulnerability, and constant communication. Intimacy does not often happen in a Church service, a Bible study, or other public meetings. It usually happens behind closed doors where no one else is around. Looking honestly at how we worship and love the Lord when alone will locate our level of love for the Lord.

Why is love and intimacy with God so important in spiritual warfare? Because we are fighting for Him. His purpose, plans, and battle strategies become apparent when we are intimate with Him. It purifies our motives and clarifies our perspectives. It strengthens us for battle and gives us a vision of His victory. More than any other thing we can do, pursuing intimacy with the Father is most important.

Intimacy with God produces great joy.

1 Peter 1:8-9 (ESV) Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

People who embrace intimacy with God are the most joyful of people. The fruit of joy grows from the tree of love and intimacy. The fruit of the Spirit is our measuring stick for the right perspectives in Christ. Our life in Christ becomes clear and exciting when we are close to God. We become more driven by His purpose and quickly align ourselves with His will and plans.

Intimacy with the Father produces the fruit of His nature in us, and from our lives will pour forth the life of God into the world around us.

Intimacy attracts disciples

         Christians follow others for many reasons—personality, charisma, doctrine, integrity, social status, etc. Most people follow a Christian leader because of the relationship with God that is evident in their life. All great Christian leaders have one thing in common, a genuinely intimate relationship with God that is obvious to all.

          God sent Jesus to restore man to an intimate relationship with Himself. The Gospel’s message is redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of relationships. It is the removal of all barriers that stand between God and man. Jesus is our peacemaker. When Christians are not continually growing in this revelation and living out this truth, they cannot reach their full potential as leaders. 

Ephesians 2:14-18 (NKJV)For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

          A leader’s influence should be used to bring others into a deeper relationship with the Father. Deep down, this is what we all want. It is impossible to lead someone to a deeper relationship with God than we have personally experienced. No matter how good a teacher we may be. We can’t lead anyone to a place we’ve never been. Jesus said of Himself; “I am the way, the truth, and the life… (John 14:6)

If we don’t know “The Way,” we can’t show the way.

          Jesus is the example of leadership that we must follow. We can look at His life and glean many leadership principles that we can live by. Still, I will only address one practice that we see Him repeating throughout the gospels—the practice of being intimate with the Father.
          There are no shortcuts to intimacy. It costs time, discipline, effort, devotion, and commitment. Above all, it requires a love for Him. Pursuing intimacy with the Father indicates our love for Him and the most significant investment we can make in ourselves and others. Our faith will only rise to the level of our love for God.

          Jesus paid the price to restore our relationship with the Father. Are we paying the price to nurture and develop that relationship? We all must answer for this for ourselves. Intimacy with God is what leads us to maturity. Many Christians follow others because of their “spiritual gifting,” not understanding that gifting can easily be manifest without spiritual maturity.

Spiritual gifts are free; maturity is expensive

          Our identity is not found in our gifting or calling but our relationship with the Father. An apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher is not who we are. It is how God created us to serve. We must find our identity in our loving relationship with the Father, not our gifting.

          Disciples are made when people willingly follow you and your living example. What are you reproducing if you make disciples apart from intimacy with the Father? Do we really need two or more like you? Our priority should be a growing relationship with the Father. We should be cautious of having followers if there are any other priorities above that.

          A leader can easily get distracted from spending intimate time with the Lord. A common trap is to replace being alone with God and pursuing intimacy in that relationship with the busyness of religious activity. Another pitfall is to allow our “quiet time” or “devotion time” with the Lord to become a lifeless activity where we go through the motions and never connect with God on an intimate level. We can read a daily chapter or two in our Bible, run through our laundry list of prayer requests, and never take time to be quiet and listen to the one we are talking to. I have been guilty of this myself. It is tragic to become lifeless in our devotions to God and call it a relationship.

            We can learn about God from reading and studying the Bible, but to honestly know Him, we must spend time with Him, commune with Him, and listen to Him.

          Jesus set a remarkable example. He only did what He saw the Father do. This mindset demands a lifestyle of watching and praying. It’s not always convenient or comfortable, but it is always necessary.

          If you read my biography, you can learn a lot about me, but you can’t honestly say that you know me. You may “feel like you know me,” but to honestly know me, you must spend time with me, ask me questions, listen to my responses, and spend time with me. It is the same with God.

          Reading the Bible takes on new dimensions when intimacy becomes a lifestyle. The word of God bears much more fruit in our lives. We begin to view His written word through the lens of His divine nature; we see it with an unveiled face and a heart of love that makes us more sensitive to His spoken word.

The Lord taught me a powerful lesson about who I am, and I think it will help to share it with you. I often pray that God would live in me and through me in fullness. That people would see Him in me. I remember some time ago, ministering to a lady on the phone one day, she asked me if I was a Pastor. I said, “No, my wife is a pastor,” The Lord then spoke to me in the middle of this phone conversation and said, “But I Am a Pastor, and if you deny Me that expression in your life, I can’t answer your prayer to live through you in fullness.”

          God was showing me that titles and labels should not define who we are, He should. We often limit His expression through our lives because our words and beliefs about ourselves are not aligned with His heart. It gives us a twisted view of our identity. Intimacy with God provides us with an understanding of who He is, shapes our beliefs, and gives us an understanding of who we are in Him.

          Who we think we are must come second to who He wants us to be at any moment. He showed me that He is the embodiment of the five-fold ministry. If we maintain intimacy with Him and be sensitive to His desires, He will be free to move through us and touch lives in ways we could never do through our strength and ability.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NKJV) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

          Without intimacy, we will not produce the fruit of who He is in our lives. May we grow in this beautiful relationship until we love as He loves.

          As we seek Him, we will find Him; as we draw close to Him, He draws close to us. As we embrace Him, He will welcome us. We love Him because He first loved us. He proved His love by laying down His life for us. May we lay down our lives for Him. He is worthy

          He is worthy of our attention, our affection, our life, and He is worthy of our death should it be required. He is worthy!

Chapter 11 – The supply of the Spirit

Spiritual Warfare requires a spiritual supply. We must understand where our spiritual supply comes from to remain well-equipped and strengthened for the fight.

One of the first tactics we see used in physical warfare is disrupting and destroying enemy supply chains. If we can keep the enemy from being supplied with weapons, ammunition, food, and medical supplies, they soon become weak and incapable of continuing the fight. Satan uses the same tactics on us in spiritual warfare.

We know that God is our supply source, but what method (supply chain) does the Lord primarily use to keep us equipped and battle ready? Ephesians 4 gives us a clear understanding of how and where our supply comes from.

Ephesians 4:16 (NKJV) from whom (Christ) the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

I think most of us understand that God uses the human body as an example of how the body of Christ works. With that in mind, consider what a joint is. It is not a body part but the connection between the parts. It is the joining of one or more body parts together. The “joint” that Ephesians is talking about is the relationship between the parts. We are “joined and knit together” by what every relationship (joint) supplies.

Most of us have been guilty of taking the relationships in our lives for granted. The supply from the Spirit of God comes primarily through our relationships with othersbelievers and non-believers alikeIt is imperative to guard and value ALL relationships.

The supply of the “joint” will promote growth and strength in the body according to the effective working of every part doing its share. When we have a healthy relationship with the Lord and pursue His kingdom with all our hearts, we become a source of light and supply to our entire circle of influence.

So, what if we, the parts, are not “effectively working?” What if we are hurt, confused, misunderstood, or deceived? What if we are angry, bitter, and jealous of the other parts? What if we are simply the wrong part in the wrong place?

Suppose we are ignorant of how this works and don’t put enough emphasis on the importance of relationships. In that case, we will make it all about how each part is functioning or not functioning at the expense of straining or even breaking relationships. What if we make it all about our position, function, purpose, and calling, exaggerating the importance of our part to the body and despising the other parts? What if we are a stumbling block to the other parts, not allowing them to function, develop, and bring their supply?

What if we hate the part God designed us to be, not understanding the beauty of our identity in Christ? It is easy to see how the enemy has deceived us in these areas.

1 Corinthians gives us some insight into how all this works.

1 Corinthians 12: 12-26 (NKJV) For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.

15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?

20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

In our physical bodies, when there is pain and injury to any joint, it affects all the surrounding parts. It limits mobility, reduces overall strength, and severely limits the function of all the surrounding parts. It is the same with the Body of Christ.

Some of the most important relationships (joints) we have are with “the five-fold ministry gifts.” Every ministry gift teaches but has a different expression, function, and assignment. Still, they all have the same purpose: Equipping the saints for the work of ministryWhen we do not have healthy relationships with the ministry gifts of Christ, we are hindered from being adequately equipped for God’s work.

All believers have within them a measure of the five-fold ministry gifts. Our relationship with other believers will be a source for equipping us. However, there are those among us that God has ordained to stand in the “office” of the five-fold ministry. These leaders in the body of Christ are specially anointed to equip us in ways that others cannot. These believers are the gifts Christ has given us to prepare us, strengthen us, and equip us for spiritual warfare. We need some level of relationship with all five of these anointed gifts

One of the reasons we don’t see the level of signs and wonders in the Church that we see in the Bible is because we have moved away from God’s ordained structure of government. When God’s government is out of order, and we don’t have much exposure to apostles, prophets, and evangelists, we become well equipped to teach and pastor but ill-equipped to function in kingdom authority with demonstration and power. Without a relationship with all these five gifts, we will likely not be well equipped to represent the kingdom of God with demonstration and power.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NKJV) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

For those of us hungry for God, we know in our hearts there is so much more available to us than we are experiencing. The Church has been ill-equipped and powerless. Could this be from not understanding the function and importance of our relationships? Could this result from not understanding God’s government and not holding to His original design? We must be exposed to all five ministry gifts because they equip us differently. 

It is no accident that many denominations no longer recognize the ministry of the apostle and prophetApostles and prophets help equip the church with power and prepare her for what is coming. The last thing the enemy wants is for his plans to be exposed in advance and for the Church to be equipped to foresee those plans and destroy his works.

Satan deceives the Church with denominational preferences, racial divisions, political differences, and doctrinal disagreements to keep us weak, ill-equipped, and ineffective. He attacks the body of Christ to damage the joints, straining and breaking relationships to cut off our supply of the Spirit. The unity of the faith is what the devil is trying to prevent. (Ephesians 4:13)

All relationships are meaningful, even the ones that challenge us. Every relationship is a gift, a garden, and an opportunity to sow and reap.

Remember this; The garden we sow into may not be the same garden we reap from. We are so interconnected as a body of believers that our prayers can affect the body of Christ on the other side of the planet. We are more connected than water, more than the molecules that make up water. It is crucial to nurture and protect every relationship, retaining our influence and connectivity by preferring the other parts and protecting the joints.

When we yield to the love of God and seek the betterment of the other parts, it strengthens relationships. It enables the Holy Spirit to come alongside, making us more than the sum of all the parts. It allows God to move in and through us freely, producing an expression of Christ that the world cannot deny or ignore.

Think about the human arm. There are 17 joints connecting over 30 parts from the shoulder to the fingers. If the elbow joint becomes compromised, it affects the strength, mobility, and function of the entire arm and hand. Consider the knee joint. If the knee is healthy, it helps the whole body walk, run, and carry heavy loads. But if that joint is hurt or strained, it hinders mobility, progress, and the overall strength and function of the rest of the body. Relationships within the body of Christ are the same way.

Here is another passage that confirms this truth.

Colossians 2:18-19 (NKJV)Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.

Notice again that joints and ligaments bring nourishment, unity, and growth if we hold fast to Christ. I find it interesting that ligaments are found only in the joints. They help keep the joint strong and hold the parts together in a proper relationship with each other. I believe that the ligaments may represent the fruit of the SpiritWhen the fruits of the Spirit abound in our relationships, it brings life and health to the joints and strength to the surrounding parts.

An essential joint we must protect is the one that connects us to the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.

The level of supply, nourishment, and unity experienced through our relationships with others reflects our relationship with the Head. If we don’t have a healthy, intimate relationship with our Father, we won’t have healthy relationships with others.

We must spend time with our Father, beholding Him so we can be more like Him. When we give ourselves to nurturing and developing this relationship, all other relationships easily fall into the proper place. The perfecting of all relationships begins with our devotion to the Head. Nothing protects our joints more than a healthy, intimate relationship with the Father.

Imagine all the body parts sharing their strengths and abilities with all the adjoining parts, bringing their supply in love and humility. There is something in that exchange that honors God, something supernatural, inviting the Holy Spirit to provide what is needed for growth and maturity.

We must have the mindset of peacemakers. Let’s all join in God’s work to be a blessing to everyone we are in a relationship withthe saved and unsaved alike.

Matthew 5:9 (NKJV) Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

Chapter 12 – The fiery trial

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

          Fiery trials reveal the genuineness of our faith. Genuine faith is only revealed by how it responds to problems and testing. We don’t even know how genuine our faith is until it is challenged and tested.

In the eyes of God, faith is more precious than gold is to us, and it is purified in much the same way. In the book of Revelation, we see the Lord greeting, admonishing, and correcting the seven Churches. We learn from Jesus’ assessment that the Laodicean church was lukewarm and self-satisfied. It boasted about its wealth and need for nothing. But the church was deceived and blinded to its spiritual condition. The Lord said it was wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Jesus urged the church to turn to Him as He was positioned outside the church, inviting whoever heard His voice to open the door and welcome Him.

Revelation 3:15-20  (NKJV) I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Laodicea is the only one of the seven Churches that receives only criticism and no positive remarks. Although all the conditions that He points out to the seven Churches can be found in Church today, I am concerned that the Laodicean Church may be the most accurate description of the Church overall.

Because of the Laodicean’s self-righteous assessment of themselves, Jesus advises them to buy gold tried in the fire and white garments to hide the shame of their nakedness from Him. He also told them to anoint their eyes so they could see the deception that they were in currently.

Jesus is describing an exchange between Himself and the Church, and He uses the phrase “buy of me.” He is telling us that it will cost us something. It is not free. It is not automatic. Serving Him and fulfilling our created purpose will require a purified faith. A faith that demands us to sacrifice certain comforts and embrace the testing and trials that perfect our faith.

 Peter described faith, approved by the test of fire, as much more valuable than gold. The Laodiceans boasted about their wealth, but they needed genuine faith far more valuable than their material wealth.

The Laodicean church was blind to spiritual realities because of its lukewarm condition. Interestingly, their focus was on earthly comforts and prosperity, much like the current growing focus throughout the body of Christ today.

Without embracing the testing and trials necessary to refine our faith, we will become comfortable, lukewarm, and blind to spiritual truths, just like the Laodicean Church.

The words temptation, trials, trying, and fiery trial are all language to describe the testing of our faith. No matter what the fiery trial may look like, our faith in Him is the object of testing. Testing is for purification and refinement, making our faith more valuable, powerful, and pleasing to the Father.

Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

          Part of the process of perfecting our faith is our growing understanding and belief that God is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him. It is much easier to embrace the fiery trial when we know tremendous rewards are the promised outcome.

Temptations of the flesh are the primary way we encounter testing. As we advance in this internal testing arena, our faith’s outward testing will increase. As testing and trials increase, so does the availability of rewards.

James 1:12-15 (NKJV) Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

          The refinement of our faith and the renewal of our mind will produce a predictable, measurable, and lasting transformation in our lives. Without both components, our faith can become shipwrecked. Suppose we find ourselves repeatedly going through the same trials and tests. In that case, we are likely weak in our devotion and commitment to God’s word.

I have emphasized this previously, but it will bear repeating. We cannot live off the teaching and preaching of others and expect victory in our lives. Sermons on TV, preaching at our Church gatherings, and books that teach about the Bible but are not the Bible cannot replace our devotion to reading, studying, and hearing God’s word for ourselves.

Anything other than the Bible is leavened bread. It should be considered a mere supplement to personal involvement in God’s holy word.

The Bible uses an analogy of a refiner’s fire to depict the need for faith refinement. The fact that our faith needs to be refined tells us that there is something in it that needs to be purged and purified. Tests, trials, and persecutions are the fire God uses to bring about this purification. 

We can quickly identify where our faith is less than pure by the way we react to any given difficulty. When our faith is not pure, we will feel emotions that match the lies we believe.

If our faith is not refined, we will become overly emotional, worried, anxious, doubtful, overwhelmed, and powerless. When we are shocked by a bad report or a sudden tragic event, we can initially be shaken with negative thoughts and feelings. However, suppose those negative thoughts and emotions remain and cause torment. In that case, it indicates a deeper problem: a lack of commitment to the written word.

Negative thoughts and emotions are something we wage spiritual warfare against, taking them captive to the obedience of Christ. This is a necessary part of the refinement process of faith. To be strong in this arena requires daily intake of, exposure to, and relationship with the written word of God. The sword of the Spirit is equally essential for defense as it is for offense.

God has designed us to feel joy, peace, and confidence when our faith is pure. Refined faith will find a way to glory in tribulations.

Romans 5:3 (NKJV) And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;

          Refined faith will count it all joy when facing various trials.

James 1:2 (NKJV) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,

          Mature faith won’t find it strange when the fiery trials of life come upon us. We will rejoice that we are worthy of partaking in Christ’s sufferings. We will understand that the blessing and glory of God rest on us.

1 Peter 4:12-14 (NKJV) Beloved do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.

Peter and the other apostles were imprisoned and commanded not to preach about Jesus again. They were supernaturally set free by an angel, who commanded them to go and keep on preaching. After they were again found by the council, preaching in the temple the next day, they were rebuked and then beaten. They left after being punished, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame in the name of Jesus.

Acts 5:40-42 (NKJV) And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

          We should stop for a minute and ask ourselves, “how different is our perspective from what we see in these passages? Have we been taught a watered-down gospel? What steps do we need to take to return to the faith initially found in the early Church?

          Jude, Jesus’ brother, in one of the shortest letters in the Bible, writes a powerful statement to all the Churches that we should pay close attention to.

Jude 3-5 (NKJV) Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saintsFor certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

          Israel’s journey in the wilderness is a type of the modern Church. They experienced supernatural provisions and saw a supernatural manifestation of the Spirit of God daily. Yet as soon as the going got tough, they started complaining, desiring to return to their old life of bondage. Almost all of them passed away without ever entering the promised land.

Hebrews 3:10 (NKJV) Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’

Fiery trials expose the impurities of our faith and reveal to the Father the faith that pleases Him.

Impure faith hinders our intimacy with Him and limits the fruit of His Spirit in our lives. When we understand that God is using fiery trials for our perfection and may even be stoking the flames, we are far more likely to submit to His handiwork. If we view the fiery trial as only our adversary and something to endure, we risk missing the benefit. Fiery trials do not have to be our enemy, even if our enemy is the source of it.

Every test and trial provides an opportunity to show God how much we love and trust Him. It is not enough to say, “God knows my heart.” Instead, we should strive to show Him our hearts through the sincerity of our faith.

Spiritual warfare is “faith school.” No matter what trial, battle, or testing we go through, our faith is the target of the testing. God wants to see if we fear Him, if we believe Him, if we will indeed follow Him, and if we love Him enough to obey Him even when we don’t understand. At the same time, our enemy wants to prove that we do not believe.

The Father searches our hearts to find the treasure of a living faith. Faith without works is a dead faithIt is only by our words and actions during testing that our heart is revealed.

Exodus 20:20 (NKJV) And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”

Chapter 13 – Reckon yourself dead

Romans 6:11 (NKJV) Likewise, you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So, what does it mean to “reckon yourself to be dead indeed to sin?” Many translations render this phrase “consider yourself to be dead,” but what does that look like?

Another good word for “reckon” is “believe.” We must believe that we are dead to sin. But that is not the end of the verse. We must also reckon (believe) that we are alive to God in Christ Jesus. It means we need to stop judging and thinking of ourselves as “sinners” and start believing and thinking of ourselves as forgiven, redeemed sons and daughters of God. The problem is, thinking and believing do not change automatically; they are changed by what we continually look at and meditate on.

Without daily intimacy with the Lord and continual exposure to His living word, we will stay focused on our failures and shortcomings, never actually becoming all Jesus paid for us to be. Reading and hearing the word of God, fellowship with other believers, and listening to good preaching are all good things. However, nothing will transform us faster than spending time with God when no one else is looking. Intimacy is where the most extraordinary transformation takes place. It is where grace has its perfect work.

Intimacy with the Father builds faith, dispels doubt, and corrects wrong thinking. Beholding Him and His glory shapes our perspectives, confirming and strengthening our identity by changing how we see Him.

          The Bible says that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45 Matthew 12:33-37)

What is in our heart and mind (believer and thinker) will eventually come out of our mouths, and that is the other thing that must change.

We will never be free from sin while allowing it to reside in our thought life and keeping it in our conversations.

We must not talk about how normal it is for us to sin. Saying things like, “We all sin, everybody sins, we are always going to sin,” strengthens a sin consciousness and reinforces the strongholds of wrong thinking and wrong believing.

There is a time and place to confess our sins and weaknesses to others for needed ministry, restoration, and accountability. However, filling our prayer life with wrong declarations of our sinful and unworthy nature is counterproductive and anti-finished work. That is not humility; it is blasphemy. He made us worthy.

Talking and thinking that way is “reckoning” ourselves alive to sin. It is saying in our hearts that sin still has power over us and therefore suggests that the finished work of Jesus did not accomplish anything.

Sin only has power over us when we empower it.

If we miss it and sin, run to God in prayer and declare.

“Lord, I thank you for your mercy. I am sorry; that is no longer who I am Lord. That is certainly not what You look like in me. Thank you for making me clean and transforming me into your image. Thank you for perfecting your work in me and bringing me to the place where this is not an issue anymore. Thank you for your blood! I am so thankful that you don’t see me as dirty or unworthy. Thank you for redeeming me. Thank you for Fathering me.”

Understand that we have a healthy new identity, purchased by the blood of Christ. Without constant exposure to God’s presence and His Word, we will never discover who we are and who we are created to be. Here are some scriptures that affirm who we are in Christ.

“We are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10)

“We have been perfected.” (Hebrews 10:14)

“We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“We are holy, blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” (Colossians 1:22)

“We are chosen by God, without blame, an adopted son, accepted, redeemed by His blood and forgiven by His grace.” (Ephesians 1:4-7)

To truly live the abundant life in Christ, we must die to our fallen, carnal nature. For us to be successful at this, we will need intimacy with Him and constant intake and exposure to His written word.  

Our intimacy with the Father is the key to dying to sin and self.

When we give ourselves to intimacy with God and reading and studying His Word, we lay ourselves on the great potter’s wheel, allowing Him to shape us into everything we were created to be.

If we don’t embrace the finished work of Christ and believe that sin has been dealt with, we give the enemy opportunity to deceive us. He primarily does this through the lies of guilt, condemnation, and shame.

Guilt = A subconscious belief that “I am not forgiven.”

Condemnation = A subconscious belief that “I am worthy of judgment.”

Shame = A subconscious belief that “I am still the old person I used to be before Christ.”

These lies are Satan’s counterfeit to the Holy Spirit’s conviction, godly sorrow, and a heavenly perspective on our identity in Christ.

Romans 14:22 (NKJV) Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.

For those that struggle with sin, it is a dead giveaway that they have yet to understand the gospel message and the completed work of Jesus Christ.

I struggled with it for decades until I began to see my deception. Even then, overcoming the strongholds of wrong believing took some time. The two things that helped me most were intimacy with the Father and the book of Romans.

Reading Romans helped me gain the proper perspective on my redemption. It helped me move from trying so hard to be “sold out to God” to understanding that I have been bought out completely. Christ purchased me with His blood, knowing that I was a sinner, that I had a fallen nature, that I would make mistakes, and that I could not fix myself. Still, he bought me! Praise the Lord!

Once I realized I could do nothing about fixing my sin and understood that only He could, I just quit thinking about it. Now I wake up every day to pursue Him and trust that He is perfecting the work that He started. I believe God knows what He is doing, and I am convinced I do not.

As we seek God’s face, our old carnal man dies because no man can look into the face of God and live.

Exodus 33:20 (NKJV) But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” 

We can behold the Father’s face through the written word. It is our carnal man’s face-to-face encounter with God. As we behold Him and His holinessthose unholy and unworthy things die.

We must believe that we are dead to sin, not giving sin another thought, not giving it the time of day. If we keep it out of our thoughts and speech, all the time and energy we previously wasted trying to “do better” or “clean ourselves up” can be spent with Him.

The most important thing to remember about “reckoning ourselves dead to sin” is believing that we are alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:11 (NKJV) Likewise, you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Chapter 14 – Sin distorts

In spiritual warfare, knowing what battles have already been won is essential so we don’t get confused and waste our energy on fights in which we already have the victory.

For this lesson, I will share a prophetic experience I had early in my Christian walk. It took me years to understand what the Lord was teaching me through this experience. Still, I have found it to be one of the key revelations that should govern the life of every believer and a necessary understanding to be effective at spiritual warfare.

The Lord woke me in the middle of the night and said, “get a pen and paper and write down everything I tell you.” I quietly rolled out of bed and did as He instructed.

As soon as I sat down, the Lord began to speak to me about my life and ministry. After a page and a half of correction, instruction, and exhortation, the Lord made this final statement to me,

“Don’t let sin distort your reflection of Me. I will confirm this word with a sign following to seal it in your heart.”

Seven days later, while starting my daily routine, I took a prayer walk around a nearby lake. It was summer in central Florida, and the sun was barely up. As I walked around the lake, fellowshipping with the Lord, He instructed me to sit on a specific bench facing the lake. As I sat down on the bench and looked across the lake, I was mesmerized by what I saw.

The lake was eerily still, not a ripple or a wave of any kind. It was a perfect mirror. Having been an avid fisherman, I have been on many bodies of water early in the morning and seen water so still that you almost didn’t want to touch it and disturb its beauty. This was something more. It was still like a glass of water sitting on the counter. I have never seen anything like it, before or since.

As I looked across the 20-acre lake with the sun behind me, I could see the shoreline on the other side. I saw the rich green grass rising from the water’s edge with gigantic Live Oak trees on the other side, topped off by a beautiful blue sky with a few puffy white clouds. As I looked at this scene, I saw that the reflection in the lake was a perfect mirror image of what I saw on the shore.

As I focused on the absolute perfect reflection in the water, I realized that this reflected image perfectly represented the real thing. If I didn’t know this was a reflection from the lake, I would not be able to tell the difference. It was as if I was looking at a reflection in a perfectly cleaned mirror.

As I was having this thought, amazed at this perfect reflection, a tiny fish jumped in the middle of the lake, right in my line of sight. I sat there for over ten minutes and watched as the ripples from that tiny fish slowly spread over the entire lake, distorting that perfect reflection that I was admiring.

Then the Lord spoke the exact words He said a week earlier, “Don’t let sin distort your reflection of Me.” This was the sign that He promised to seal the things He spoke to me in my heart. This was a prophetic word to make warfare. It changed my life.

I won’t share the other things He said to me, but they were precise in defining who He called me to be and what I needed to correct. I focused on the things that He spoke to me about my identity instead of focusing on the sign and trying to gain understanding. A grave mistake on my part and cost me years of struggle with sin.

Not only have we been freed from the consequences of sin, but wrestling with sin as well. Our only responsibility is to embrace the truth of who we are, believing in Christ’s completed work. By this alone, we are empowered to resist sin.

1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (NKJV) The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ gave us victory over spiritual death and sin. It is a gift! It was easy for me to believe that I had the victory over spiritual death and was going to heaven but having faith to believe that I was completely freed from sin was just too hard to swallow. After all, I know me. I know my weaknesses. I know how many times I have fallen in the same area, so I battled against sin in my life for years, not realizing that the battle had already been won.

My lack of understanding caused me to backslide repeatedly. I would get so worn out and so frustrated from trying not to sin that I would lose hope and give up on God, returning to my old sinful ways. I am so thankful God never gave up on me.

Romans 6:6-7 (NKJV) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7For he who has died has been freed from sin. 

I was free from the slavery of sin and didn’t know it. My old carnal self was crucified with Him when I made Jesus the Lord of my life. The enemy made me believe that I would never be free from sinning and tricked me into fighting a battle that Jesus had already won.

A wise spiritual warrior knows when to fight and when to rest in the victory.

I know I am not alone. I see this problem in the lives of many believers. Hopefully, this will shed some light on why some of us struggle with sin.

God’s grace will transform us and restore us into His image. If we make a mistake and fall into sin, we must quickly repent and forget it just like He does.

Hebrews 8:12 (NKJV) For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.

Isaiah 43:25 (NKJV) “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.

Notice that God blots out our sins and chooses not to remember them. He does this for His own sake, not ours. He calls us to do the same, for our sake and His.

1 John 1:9 (NKJV) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Admit it, quit it, and forget it! If we diligently practice this, we stop the ripple effects of sin before it distorts the reflection of His image in and through our lives. Un-repented sin takes us farther than we want to go, keeps us longer than we want to stay, and costs us more than we can pay.

When we dwell on sin and our propensity to sin, we acknowledge its power and give sin a voice and a platform for expression. Dwelling on sin produces a sin consciousness. Eventually, it builds a stronghold of wrong thinking and wrong believing in our hearts and minds, making it even harder to break free of the cycle of unbelief.

It is impossible to reflect the clear image of God with a sin consciousness. Sin has been dealt with by the only one ever qualified to deal with itJesus Christ.

We live in this incredible paradox of having two natures. Once we take on the nature of God at the new birth, we die to that old carnal nature. We must no longer think like slaves to sin. Instead, we have the privilege of waking up daily in Him, understanding that we are righteous in His sight, and allowing His amazing grace to reshape us and mold us into His image.

A modern paraphrase of the bible called “The Message. The Bible in Contemporary Language” was written by Eugene H. Peterson, an American theologian. I understand that he wrote this paraphrase so his young grandchildren would have a more easily understood translation of the BibleWhile this is not a word-for-word translation and many people reject his writing, I believe he captures the heart of God and the spirit of truth on revelations concerning sin and righteousness. Here is a beautiful passage in Romans that teaches this truth beautifully.

Romans 6:1-14  (MSG) So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!

3-5 That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.

6-11 Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer captive to sin’s demands! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.

12-14 That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.

We can’t let sin distort the image of God in usWe will never experience the freedom from sin that Christ died for if we keep it in our language and thoughts.

Suppose we take all the energy we expend on struggling to clean ourselves up and use it to pursue Him in an intimate relationship. In that case, He will do what we are unable to. He will remove all things that are not pleasing to Him and cause hurt to His child. He is a good FatherWe can be confident that He will complete the work He started in us if we just cooperate and believe what He said is true.

Philippians 1:6 (NKJV) being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Chapter 15 – Sword skills

         The Bible teaches us that the word of God is the sword of the Spirit.

Ephesians 6:17 (NKJV) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

It doesn’t take very long reading the Bible to realize that it is much harder to read and digest than any other book. It requires spiritual and mental effort, as well as physical stamina, to read and understand the truth contained in it. The reason? The Bible is the only book that is alive. The word of God is a living sword of truth.

Don’t be confused. The sword of the Spirit is not just the written word; it also applies to the spoken word. Without the spoken word, we will never get the specifics needed to wage victorious warfare. Look at what the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy.

1 Timothy 1:18 (NKJV) This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,

Paul is instructing Timothy to pay close attention to the spoken words of prophecy made over him that he may wage spiritual warfare.

The spoken word of God is just as valid as the written word. Yet, there are entire denominations that reject prophecies and claim that such gifts ceased in the time of the original apostles. Others argue that the written word is the only sure word. In Paul’s writings to the Thessalonians, he made this explicit statement.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (NKJV) Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

I make this point so we don’t get trapped into wrong thinking about our spiritual sword and limit ourselves in our ability and knowledge of how to use it. We must not take lightly the words that the Lord has spoken to us, whether it be the written word, a word spoken to us directly, or through prophecy from other saints.

The Bible describes the word of God as a living swordbut in other places, as a seeda mirror, a light, water, food, a fire, and a hammerJesus Himself is called the Word. The point is that the word of God contains anything and everything you need in any given situation.

John 17:17 (NKJV) Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth

Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified, set apart by the truth of God’s word. The sword of truth separates us from our old carnal nature so we might embrace our new life in Christ.

Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The sword of truth is sharper than any other sword, cutting clean and deep when we incline our heart to it. It is a discerner of our beliefs, thoughts, and hearts’ intentions. It has the power to separate light from darkness, identifying things in us that need change and surgically removing those things that don’t belong. 

The sword of the word challenges what we think and believe as it exposes us to God’s nature and His divine purpose for our lives. The truth sets us free from all darkness and all things that bind us and hold us captive to the fallen nature.

We shouldn’t recklessly play with a sharp sword by using it against others. Not until we have learned the dangers of mishandling it and the damage caused to others by misusing it. The word should be approached with reverence and respect and handled with skillful wisdom in fear of the Lord. The word of God is holy.

Titus 3:9 (NKJV) But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.

2 Timothy 2:23 (NKJV) But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.

Heated arguments about the word of God is a sure sign that we are unskilled with the sword.

We see in the gospel of John that Jesus is called “the Word.” Are we to take the sword of the word and cut people up with it? I think not.

John 1:1-2 (NKJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Everything made was made through the Word of life, Jesus Christ. Notice it says nothing about things or people being cut up or torn down by the word. When we mishandle the word, we misrepresent our Lord and King.

After the Apostle Paul’s dramatic conversion, he did not start teaching immediately, even though he was a trained Pharisee with years of study in the Old Testament. Paul implied that he spent three years being taught by Jesus Himself.

Galatians 1:11-12 (NKJV) But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Whether Jesus appeared to Paul physically or revealed Himself through visions and revelations is unknown and unimportant. Significantly, Paul received three years of discipleship from Jesus personally, just like the other Apostles.

When the disciples chose Mathias to take Judas Iscariot’s place as an Apostle, we see the conditions required for that office in Acts 1.

 Acts 1:21-22 (NKJV) “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

God’s children should study the word to show themselves approved before they consider teaching the word. The foundational Apostles needed three years of direct teaching from Jesus Himself. We are not foundational Apostles as they were, but we must ask ourselves and the Lord; Am I ready to represent the Word of life? Am I skilled enough to teach others to use the sword?

As we put on the armor of God, the sword is the last thing we are instructed to pick up.

Ephesians 6:13-17 (NKJV) Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

We know God’s word is a spiritual sword, but what is a “word” in general?

A word is a verbal or written expression that carries ideas and creates images in people’s hearts and minds. The very nature of a word shapes the image that it produces. All words are spiritual, and all thoughts are spiritual. The nature of God’s word is love. Love is our license to wield the sword.

Hebrews 1:3tells us that Jesus is the express image of God. He is our role model; the Word made flesh. As we behold His image, we are shaped into His likeness.

Paul’s exhortation to young Timothy gives us explicit instruction on our approach to God’s word.

2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Being skilled with the sword takes diligence and work. If we cannot rightly divide the word of God, why would we desire to teach it?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

All scripture is profitable for reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, but not necessarily our interpretation or delivery of it. Handling the word of life without humility and the fear of the Lord can result in people being cut, hurt, and offended. It brings a reproach on Christ, discrediting His name, harming the Church, and devaluing His word.

The Bible says in James 3:1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. And yet the world is full of Bible teachers that do not rightly divide the word of truth. We should all realize that teachers of the word of God are held to a high level of accountability. A stricter judgment. Teachers should teach from the overflow of their intimate relationship with the Lord, for these are the only things they truly know. Accumulation of knowledge about the word of God is not the same as knowing the Word.

In the age of abundant information that we live in, it is easy to accumulate a lot of knowledge about God and reduce ourselves to just relaying information. Unless we have practiced what we preach, we don’t know the truth we are trying to shareThis common practice results in teaching and preaching that lack spiritual authority with demonstration and power. We try to compensate for this lack of authority and power by being funny and entertaining. It is a poor substitute.

We should keep in mind that the Word is a person. When we share the word with others, we are to share from our understanding of God we gain from the relationship, not the knowledge we have accumulated about God through academic efforts. If we are not practicing what we know, we cannot teach it with the authority and power it deserves.

James 1:22 (NKJV) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

When we teach what we don’t practice, we not only deceive ourselves but do an injustice to those we are attempting to teach.

Until we are doers of the word, we do not know the word. Even if we memorize every scripture in the Bible, we only know those things we have put into practice.

Suppose we were to read and memorize every piece of information on the planet about flying a jet. Can we call ourselves a pilot? No. We can’t say we know it until we have practiced it.

If we were to memorize every bit of literature about brain surgery, can we be considered brain surgeons? No. Doctors and pilots must work with other skilled professionals to gain experience in a safe and controlled environment where mistakes get no one hurt or put in danger.

The deception that James is talking about is the accumulation of knowledge without practicing it. It causes us to think we know what we are talking about without ever living it. Just because we can quote scripture and have an entire library of memorized verses does not mean we know the truth.

It is only by being doers of the word, obeying what we know, that expresses and reveals our faith. Obedience to the word we know causes us to grow in the grace and knowledge of God, increasing our capacity to receive and learn more.

2 Timothy 3:14 (NKJV) But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,

We must ask ourselves; Are we learning from our relationship with the Lord and His written word, or are we just learning from the opinions of preachers and teachers? Are we studying to show ourselves approved by God, or are we just listening to the latest revelations from our favorite ministers? Do we rely on the understanding of respected theologians, or do we know God intimately for ourselves?

Do we have enough understanding of the word of God for ourselves to identify wrong teaching when we hear it, or do we let our leaders do the interpreting for us?

Even if we attend seminary and have multiple degrees, we must filter all that knowledge through our intimate relationship with the Lord. Attending Bible college does not qualify us or validate our call to minister. Without a personal relationship with the Father, we will teach doctrines of men and religious traditions filled with leaven like the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:6)

1 John 2:27 (NKJV) But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

The Bible also says, “call no man your teacher.”

Matthew 23:8-11 (NKJV) But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.

This is not a contradiction to Ephesians 4, where Jesus gave us teachers and the other five-fold ministry gifts to equip us. We should listen to other teachers and preachers. Still, at the same time, we must filter those teachings through our intimate relationship with the Lord, allowing the living Word to divide and discern the truth rightly. We can easily detect any error if we are sensitive to the indwelling Holy Spirit.

We should ask ourselvesHow much time and effort are we investing in our relationship with the Lord? What does our relationship with God look like when no one is looking? Are we studying the Bible to know God better or learning to devise a sermon to preach to others?

Our relationship with God is our most important ministryIt is a ministry to the Lord, not to people. Ministry to people should come from the overflow of our ministry to the Lord. Priorities here are vitally important.

Acts 13:1-3 (NKJV) Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

Notice how clear and specific direction came as they ministered to the Lord. The Holy Spirit spoke through one or more of these men by prophecyword of wisdom, or maybe tongues and interpretation. It does not say specifically. However, it bore witness with all present. They moved forward in that prophetic word with confidence to wage spiritual warfare.

If we try to “do ministry” without first ministering to the Lord, we will fall prey to false doctrines and develop itchy ears. We will seek validation by following others who believe like us and gravitate toward others who treat the truth like shoes. We will try it on, and if it is the least bit uncomfortable, we will set it aside and try on something else that is more comfortable. Truth is not always comfortable; that is why we have a comforter.

2 Timothy 4:2-5 (NKJV) Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

1 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV) Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 

We are in the latter times, if you haven’t noticed. The great day of the Lord is upon us, so let us give proper reverence to God and His holy word so that we can handle our sword with skill and precision, with honor, in fear of the Lord.

Chapter 16 – Avoiding the itchy ears

John 8:31-32 (ESV) So, Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Freedom comes from a living relationship with the truth of His written word. It does not come from abiding in the teachings of men, the sermons of men, the doctrines of men, the interpretations of men, the latest revelations of our favorite Bible teachers, or any other way that seems right to man. (Proverbs 14:12) it only comes from a personal, intimate relationship with the Father and a constant exposure to the His written word.

Listening to other teachers is essential, but this should supplement our pursuit of God through His written word. Through reading, study, and meditation on the Bible for ourselves, we consume the unleavened bread of Christ, the pure living word. If we primarily listen to others teach about the Bible and read very little for ourselves, it’s like taking vitamins and supplements and eating almost no real food. It’s an unhealthy practice that the body of Christ must be delivered from.

2 Timothy 4:3-5 (ESV) For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

The time isn’t coming, folks; the time is now! We have become the church with itchy ears. Consider this; There are over 200 Christian denominations in the U.S.A. alone, and we are all arrogant enough to believe we have it right. The lack of humility is enough to see the error in all.

The power of truth is something that takes faith to swallow sometimes. In verse three, the people could not “endure” sound teaching. People don’t like to be confronted with the truth when it challenges their lifestyle and beliefs. When the truth became too much to swallow, they sought after a feel-good message that told them what they wanted to hear—a word suited to their passions, not the passion of Christ.

It is easy to slip into an itchy-eared mindset. Just pick all the scriptures, teachers, and doctrines that make us happy and gravitate toward those while neglecting the ones that challenge us and demand change. How do I know? I have been guilty more than most, I think.

Consider this; It only takes a slow reader approximately 90 hours to read the Bible from cover to cover, and yet few Christians have ever read the entire Bible, even leaders in the Church that have been saved for decades. Furthermore, it only takes about 75 hours to listen to the Bible by audio recording. Currently, we have resources like Biblegateway that we can read or listen to God’s word in almost any translation we choose and in multiple languages.

It reveals how little we respect the word of God and how lightly we esteem what God has already said. It also shows us how much we trust in the opinions of men and allow them to spoon-feed us their ideas. We are in a dangerous season in the history of the Church. The end of this age is upon us, and we don’t know who we are, what we believe, or why we believe it.

I know there are men and women of God that have not fallen into this deception, but I would venture to say that they are very few. It is time the few stand up and lead others into a relationship with the Father that births a hunger and desire for the manifestation of the kingdom of God and the truth of His word.

The parable of revealed light

Luke 8:16-18 (ESV) “No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. 18Therefore take heed how you hearFor whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.”

Many quote the first part of this parable, but verse 18 has the word “Therefore,” which ties together hiding our light with how we hear. 

With constant exposure to wrong doctrines, strongholds of wrong thinking and wrong believing will increase (we get more added), and our light gets progressively hidden. (what we seem to have, is taken away) No one intentionally does this; it comes from the enemy’s deception and catering to selfish desires and itchy ears.

We must all ask ourselves this question; (I am going to hammer this point the entire book, in case you haven’t noticed) What are the primary ways that we learn about God and His word? Through the teachings of others (leavened bread) or through reading and listening to the Bible for ourselves? (unleavened bread)

Only by the sharpness of the living word can we rightly discern and divide the truth. If we avoid the portions of God’s word that cut, pierce, and prunes us, we quickly slip into error and deception. Our light gets hidden, and our witness to the world is compromised.

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Many would say, “It is hard to read the Bible, hard to understand.” I would say to those people, walking and talking were challenging too, until you learned how to do it. Now it comes naturally.

Our leaders cannot walk or talk for us. Neither can they feed us anything more than leavened bread. We need the unleavened bread and the sincere milk of God’s word, and we must learn to feed ourselves.

The interesting thing about spiritual hunger is that it comes from feeding, not starving. The more we give ourselves to reading the word, the more we will enjoy it and desire it.  

1 Peter 2:2 (ESV) As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

Notice that Peter said, “As newborn babes?” He isn’t pointing out baby Christians; he is saying that our hunger and desire for the word of God should be like an infant that cries for life-giving milk every few hours. Mature and immature Christians alike.

Ask yourself, “what am I hungry for? Am I hungry for God and His word, or the latest preaching and teaching from my favorite ministers?” They are not even close to being the same.

If a minister reads the scriptures alone, you feed on the unleavened bread of truth. As soon as the minister explains and expounds on that truth, you are eating leavened bread, filtered through a vessel with two opposing natures.

I am not saying we don’t need ministers to help us rightly divide the truth. I am saying that we should be mindful not to make it our primary source.

Matthew 23:9-10 (NKJV) Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 

That may seem contradictory since the Lord Jesus gave us teachers in the form of the “five-fold ministry gifts” mentioned in Ephesians 4, but it is not. All the five-fold ministry gifts have one purposeto equip the saints for the work of ministry. All five teach differently, but those teachings must be filtered through the anointing of the Holy Spirit and our relationship with God and His written word.

1 John 2:26-27 (NKJV)These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

Suppose we abide in the wrong doctrine, even out of ignorance. In that case, we partner with the adversary, building strongholds of wrong thinking and wrong believing in our hearts and minds. We assist the enemy in his deceptions by building the strongholds that bind us. Unfortunatelyit’s an evil deception that most of us fall for at one time or another.

These strongholds are not only reinforced belief systems but encampments in our minds that the enemy hides behindAs we speak and act on the things we believe, we reveal to Satan the best strategies to keep us in our deception. One of the ways he does this is to keep us running in the same circle of believers and despising the beliefs of other denominations. Denominational divisions were never God’s plan, and now they are an effective tool the enemy uses against us.

To be truly free, we must be very selective about what we are hearing and beholding, who we are listening to, and how much we are doing it. Without the filter of our relationship with God and His Word, we cannot skillfully discern sound doctrine. Truth becomes obscured with the leaven of religious doctrine that appeases the carnal mind and satisfies our selfish desires. Self is the very thing we need to be set free from. Freedom from self will not come until we die to self by renewing our minds to the holiness of God’s word.

Again, are we abiding in His word or just reading the latest books and listening to the latest sermons? Do we desire the sincere milk of the word, or do we lust for the leaven of a self-serving gospel that doesn’t challenge or strengthen us for trials and testing?

Our itchy ears and the lust for leavened bread binds us and blinds us from the truth. There is a reason the apostle James wrote, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1)

Let us abide in His word, seek Him when no one is looking, cultivate a hunger for the sincere milk of God’s word and become everything the blood of Christ has paid for us to be.

Developing the hearing Ear

The best way to avoid having itchy ears is to zero in on the one thing that enables us to hear clearly from God.

The Lord asked me years ago, “How does faith come?” I immediately said, “Faith comes by hearing Lord.” (quoting Romans 10:17). The Lord then asked: “So then how does hearing come?”   

I did not have a quick answer for Him, but I remembered all the scriptures that state: “he who has ears to hear let him hear,” and passages that said, “they had ears but could not hear, and eyes but could not see.” I began to see why people who confess that Jesus is Lord and have the appearance of faith are struggling in their Christian walk and getting little results. They don’t have a hearing ear, so faith never comes.

The typical teaching is that faith comes by hearing and hearing and hearing etc. And there is truth to that line of thought. However, there are different ways to hear, and there is a difference between natural and spiritual hearing.

 Romans 10:17 (NKJV) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Let me give you a more accurate translation of this verse to make it clear.

Romans 10:17 (my paraphrase) So faith comes from what you hear, and your spiritual hearing comes from the Word of God that you act on.

Just because we have ears does not mean we can hear the Word. Spiritual ears can only be opened by obedience to the Word of God. That word will come from the written and spoken Word, but only the word we act on will develop our spiritual ears. When we are obedient, it demonstrates faith, and we become receptive to more instruction.

Obedience is the action of faith; disobedience is the action of doubt. Faith without the work of obedience is a dead faithand a dead faith has deaf spiritual ears.

Throughout the Bible, we see it was the disobedient and rebellious people who “had ears but could not hear.”

Deuteronomy 29:4 (NKJV) Yet the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day.

Jeremiah 5:21 (NKJV) Hear this now, O foolish people, without understanding, who have eyes and see not, and who have ears and hear not:

Ezekiel 12:2 (NKJV) “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, which has eyes to see but does not see, and ears to hear but does not hear; for they are a rebellious house.

Spiritual hearing is developed from the word of God that we act upon. If we cannot rightly discern God’s voice, we should humble ourselves before the Father and ask Him why. If we are rebellious or disobedient in any way, He will reveal it to us if we are sincere.

There are vast realms of understanding and revelation that we willnever acquire if we are not doers of the word. The Bible says we deceive ourselves if we do not act on what we have heard. When we hear the word and do nothing about it, we become spiritually deaf. 

James 1:22 (NKJV) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Once we become doers of the word of God, an incredible creative cycle begins.

  • Obeying the word gives life to our faith and increases our ability to hear from the Lord.
  • As our spiritual ears open, opportunities to obey increase.
  • Obedience to God’s word gives life to our faith. 

And the cycle repeats indefinitely. It is the process of spiritual growth.

If the Word of God is sown in our hearts and we refuse to act on it (rebellion), the devil has the right to steal it from us. We see this condition in the parable of the sower.

Matthew 13:19  (NKJV) When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.

There are too many “wayside” Christians in the Church today. The current spiritual condition of the Church is poor. In part because of the inability to hear what the Lord is saying to this generation.

Matthew 13:9-13 (NKJV) He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” 10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

When Jesus called the twelve disciples, He said to them: “Come.” They acted on that word and continued to follow Him.Because they acted on the word, they had ears to hear more instruction.

Stop for a moment and ask yourself, “where has Jesus called me to come to Him and I have not followed?” 

Let’s look at the rest of this passage.

Matthew 13:14-15 (NKJV) Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

Lack of spiritual hearing comes from unbelief. Unbelief is a deception of the heart that manifests itself in many ways: disobedience, lack of understanding, spiritual laziness, pride, and selfishness.

Allowing ourselves to continue in unbelief creates strongholds that the enemy can hide behind and strengthen our deceptioncausing us to hear even less. I cannot emphasize this point enough.

God has already spoken many things to us in His written word. Why would He be inclined to say anything else if we are not interested in what He already said? I have heard countless people say, “the Lord doesn’t speak to me.” Truthfully? He is always speaking, and we have the Bible as a record of what he has already said.

If we find out what God has already spoken and act on it. We will have ears to hear what the Spirit says in our hearts.

 Chapter 17 – The mark of a true disciple

What is a disciple? If someone asked you; Are you a disciple of Jesus? What would you say? Do you believe that you are a disciple?

I was convicted strongly by the Holy Spirit that we throw that word around and don’t seem to stop and consider what a true disciple of Christ is. Webster defines a disciple as “a pupil or follower of any teacher or school.” But what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?

We can quickly look at the lives of the twelve disciples of Jesus and the life of the apostle Paul to help us understand what it means to be a true disciple, but what does the Bible say about it?

John 8:31-32 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

A disciple is a disciplined learner. Abiding in God’s word is the mark of a true disciple. According to this passage, the fruit of being a true disciple is knowledge of the truth and freedom. In other words, being a disciple has a specific fruit. It is measurable.

We must ask ourselves some very sobering questions.

  • Am I genuinely abiding by God’s word?
  • Do I hunger and thirst for the word like a baby desires its milk?

True disciples have this in common; they all have an insatiable desire for God’s word. Spiritual hunger and growth are also measurable fruit of being a true disciple.

Ask yourself; Am I free from the bondage of sin? Or am I still bound by the same old habits, addictions, emotions, and carnal tendencies I was last year? Is my transformation into Christ-likeness evident to me and others, or am I stuck in religious practices that make me feel better about myself but do not change me?

Do I understand that Truth is a person and not just words on a page? Am I growing in my relationship with that person and following Him?

John 14:6 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 1:1-5 (NKJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Being a true disciple is to abide in truth until it dawns on our heart and mind that truth is a living person, not simply words in a book. Abiding in truth causes Truth to set us free, and whom the Truth sets free is free indeed. Freedom is the fruit of knowing Him.

As we abide in the truth of God’s word, that word becomes flesh in our lives. We become the truth in which we are abiding. We become what we are beholding.

Matthew 16:24 (NKJV) Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

          To become a true disciple of Jesus, we must first deny ourselves. We must lay aside our desires and preferences if they do not align with His purpose. Free will becomes costly when it opposes the will of God.

 Chapter 18 – Embracing stillness

Practicing stillness before the Lord may be one of the most challenging disciplines to master. One thing that seems uncomfortable in prayer, especially in a corporate prayer setting, is times of stillness and quietness before the Lord. Somehow, we feel the need to do something or say something. Yet prayer is two-way communication, not a one-way dialogue. If we neglect to allow God the opportunity to speak, how are we to receive instruction, direction, or correction?

          In a Father/child relationship, the burden of communication falls on the Father; the burden of listening, being attentive, and doing what He says falls on the child. We have a responsibility as sons and daughters of God to take time to listen in silence, purposely giving time to have a hearing ear.

          Practicing stillness forces our mind and soul to be quiet, allowing our attention to turn toward God. Stillness makes us more receptive to hearing from God by the still small voice of the Spirit. Our thoughts and emotions change in prolonged silence and become sensitive to the Spirit’s influence.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 7 (NKJV) To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;

Waiting in silent expectation before God is a powerful and fruitful endeavor. A quiet meditation on who He is and the truth of His written word is an amazing exercise of our faith that is pleasing to the Lord.

Psalm 23:2-3 (NKJV) He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

The Lord is always leading us to a place of green pastures and still waters. A place of refreshing and restoration. It is a place we find direction and discernment from the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 46:10 (NKJV) Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

It is in the stillness that God is known. Reading and studying God’s word helps us to know about God but spending time in His presence is what we need to know Him intimately. God desires us to live from the overflow of our relationship with Him rather than living only by the principles in His written word. We desperately need both.

“In our stillness before Him, He prepares us to host His presence.”

Psalm 62:1 (NKJV) Truly my soul silently waits for God; From Him comes my salvation.

Psalm 62:5-6 (NKJV) My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved.

“Silently waiting on God anchors our soul.”

When pressed on every side with the enemy’s trials and attacks, silent waiting on God gives us strength to stand in faith. It reinforces our trust in His mercy and power to deliver us out of all our troubles. It purifies our motives and gives us a proper perspective.

Isaiah 30:15 (NKJV) For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not,

The Lord is speaking a solid word of correction through the prophet Isaiah. The Lord rebuked His people for trusting in Egypt for strength and salvation instead of Him. Isaiah said by the word of the Lord that in returning and rest, they would be saved, and in quietness and confidence, they would be strengthened, but they refused to do it. Let’s learn from their mistakes.

Stillness should be practiced individually and corporately to keep us from trusting in the world and its systems. How many gatherings have we seen where we corporately wait in silence before the Lord?

We live in an age of distractions and constant movement. It is vitally important that we practice stillness before the Lord to help us cut through the clamor and chaos of our generation. Stillness is the frequency of God, positioning our hearts to peace.

How much of your prayer life is spent in stillness?

“Be still and know that I am God.

 Chapter 19 – The importance of watchfulness

Matthew 26:41 (NKJV) Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

What did Jesus mean when He said, “Watch and pray?” Here is a true story from a friend of mine that I believe will help us understand what Jesus was talking about.

While going to a grocery store one day, the Lord prompted me to remain in the car while my friends went in to do some shopping. In the car next to me was a little dog sitting in the driver’s seat, staring intently at the store’s sliding glass doors. This dog would not take his eyes off that door. Every time the automatic doors would slide open, the little dog’s ears would perk up. He would stand with his front paws on the steering wheel, panting, wide-eyed, and tail wagging expectantly.

People would often come out of that door, and the dog would get excited until he realized it was not his master. Then the dog would return to his intense watchful position, not disappointed but with a clear understanding that one of these times his master would appear; he had only to wait patiently.

I knew the Lord was fathering me. My attention was on this dog like his attention was on the door. Through this little dog, the Lord showed me what He meant when He said, “watch.”

Eventually, the little dog’s master exited the door. His excitement and enthusiasm became utterly unhinged! I could hear his happy little whines and yelps as he watched his owner walk to the car. His love and appreciation for his master were unquestionable.

They could not have been apart for more than 30 minutes, yet the dog greeted his master like he had been missing him for a month. To this dog, his master was the most precious person on the planet. He desperately wanted to be with his master. This dog was longing for another opportunity to love his master with everything in him. I wept as I watched this unfold before me.

After hearing the story of this little dog, I was convinced that we often take the Lord for granted and that our attention is usually on the wrong things. We may not fully understand what it means to love with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, but this little dog understood.

Do we see Jesus as our master, who paid for us with His blood? Could it be that our hearts are divided, our minds distracted? Do we allow the cares and challenges of this world to matter more than what should matter most?

What would it be like seeing our heavenly Father like this little dog saw his master? How would it affect our relationships with the Lord and others? What would it do to our perspectives? How would it affect our faith?

The Bible says to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first, and all our needs will be met. (Matt 6:33) Yet we often approach God with our laundry list of demands, wants, and concerns like He wasn’t serious when He said that.

The narrow perspective

Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV) Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Faith is a perspective. A Christian should have a very narrow way of thinking, believing, speaking, and behaving. This perspective comes from an unwavering trust in God and His immeasurable love for us.

John 5:19-20 (NKJV) Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.

Jesus only did what He saw the Father do. One of the reasons Jesus was able to perform miracles, heal the sick, and raise the dead is because He constantly practiced watching the Father. Could this be why we don’t see the level of supernatural life that we read about in the New Testament?

The discipline of watching creates an awareness of God that dials up our sensitivity to the Spirit and puts life in proper perspective. It produces a healthy fear of the Lord that makes us acutely aware of what He is saying at the moment. The more we keep our attention and focus on Him, the clearer we become on who He is and who we are to Him. Being watchful births humility, and He gives His grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5 – James 4:6-7)

Watchfulness produces integrity of the heart, which makes resisting temptation easier. It keeps us prepared to face anything that life would dish out. Watchfulness is one of the essential parts of prayer that has not been taught or practiced. When we practice watching, we know better what to pray for and how to pray. It positions us to be a vessel that the Father can move through. Watchfulness helps to sanctify us.

Luke 21:34-36 (NKJV)“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Mark 13:33 (NKJV) Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.

1 Thessalonians 5:6 (NKJV) Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.

Matthew 25:13 (NKJV) “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

 Chapter 20 – Keep your finger on the ground

Some of the most powerful teachings of Jesus are when the religious leaders are trying to catch Him in His words to bring an accusation against Him. He always seems to use those opportunities to demonstrate the kingdom of God that He is ushering in. This is one of my favorites.

In John 8, we see Jesus’ teaching in the temple, and the Pharisees interrupt His reading to bring Him a woman caught in the act of adulteryPay attention to how Jesus deals with this.

John 8:2-8 (NKJV) Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 

They were testing Jesus. They were squeezing Him, hoping for something to come out of Him that they could use against Him.

Our heart is revealed through testing. When we get squeezed by the circumstance of life, what is inside us comes out.

There is much to be learned from this passage, but we will focus on two key phrases in this verse: “they said to test Him,” and “He bent down and wrote on the ground.”How are they related? What was Jesus doing when He bent down to write on the ground? What is the Lord saying to us through this encounter?

James 1:19-20 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Being slow to speak is just one of the many valuable lessons in this encounter. When Jesus got squeezed, what did He do? He bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground, giving us a living example of how to deal with testing and find the answers we need when our feet are held to the fire.

Most teachers would quickly get angry for bursting into the temple and interrupting the serviceThey would rebuke and correct such brash and irreverent actions, but that is not what Jesus did.

Instead of quickly answering, Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground, ignoring their badgering and waiting on what the Spirit had to say. I doubt that Jesus was writing anything significant. I believe He was simply checking what the Father had to say about it, how He should respond, and what He should do. I think He was seeking wisdom and understanding.

They continued to pressure Him. We don’t know how long, but when He finally stood up, He had the heart of the Father, and the Spirit gave Him the words to say. “He who is without sin, cast the first stone,” Then, once more, He bent back down and wrote on the ground, waiting for further instruction asking the Father about the next stepwaiting for those powerful words to have their full effect.

This encounter is an excellent example of the Holy Spirit’s gift of the word of wisdom. The Father gave Jesus the very words that would diffuse the situation by a manifestation of the Spirit.

We often miss out on the demonstration of Spiritual gifts by our lack of patience and unwillingness to wait when being pressured.

Proverbs 4:7-9 (NKJV) Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”

The principal thing in every test, every battle, and every encounter is getting wisdom and understanding. They are always available if we ask, seek, and wait. We often don’t think about waiting; instead we tend to speak before we seekWe try to answer or act from the shallow well of our limited understanding instead of waiting, watching, and listening for direction from the Holy Spirit.

James 1:2-5 (NKJV) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 

Testing will always come; we are to count it all joy when it does. The closer we get to Him, the greater our testing will be. What comes forth from us during testing and trials indicates what we believe and who we trust. Testing is an essential part of the gospel. It causes us to grow spiritually and increase our authority in the kingdom of God.

We know from scripture that in Jesus’s mind, He could do nothing of Himself. Since He is our model for Christian living, it would behoove us to adopt the same line of thinking. The life of Jesus is perfect theology. What we see Him doing, we should be practicing in our churches and in our personal lives. If we cannot see it in the life of Jesus, it doesn’t belong in ours.

John 5:30 (NKJV) “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”

Luke 12:11-12 (NKJV) And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

Jesus modeled this passage in Luke 12 in His encounter with the woman caught in adultery. Jesus always modeled the word that He preached.

Throughout the gospels, Jesus often separated Himself between times of ministry to pray and fellowship with the Father. Without this component in our lives, we will not be mindful enough or strong enough to keep our finger on the ground when tests arise.

The world is watching all of us that profess to be Christians to see our true character. Our response to trials and testing should produce wisdom and grace, seasoned with salt and in step with God’s character.

Without frequent times of intimacy with the Father, we will not produce the fruit of who He is when it counts the most.

 Chapter 21 – Spirit-led prayer

One of the greatest tragedies in the Church is the confusion we have about the Holy Spirit. Even among groups that emphasize the Holy Spirit and His role in the Church, we see different beliefs, expressions, and practicesmany of which are contradictory.

The Bible shows the mishandling of holy things brings serious consequences. How much more severe is it when we have the Holy Spirit of God living inside us?

It is essential that we rightly divide truth concerning the Holy Spirit.

In this lesson, we will address the practice of praying in the Spirit and define what exactly praying in the Spirit is. While some limit praying in the Spirit to praying only God’s written word, others say that praying in the Spirit is only praying with other tongues. Still, others reject praying with other tongues altogether. Our lack of agreement reveals our overall lack of understanding.

Effective spiritual warfare requires an understanding of praying in the Spiritso let’s bring clarity to this from God’s word.

          We must first understand that praying in the Spirit is any prayer under the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit. Look at our instruction in Ephesians.

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Our instruction is that all prayer and supplication are to be done “in the Spirit.” The prayer of salvation, prayers of sanctification, prayers of dedication, prayers of intercession, prayers of repentance, the prayer of faith, prayers of thanksgiving, and yes, praying with other tongues. They are all to be prayed “in the Spirit.” Supplications are specific requests. They are also to be prayed in the Spirit. So, what does that look like?

Everything God does is relational. Many of us have allowed our devotional time to become mechanical and lifeless, not relational at all, just religious and dead. We run through a prayer list and read our daily devotional, never spending time in silent reverence so we can connect with the one we are talking to. Having a daily devotional is commendable. Having a daily devotional and never actually connecting intimately with your Father is tragicPraying in the Spirit requires communion, not just conversation.

com·mun·ion – the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.

If all we do is pray from our limited thinking, our prayer life will lack the authority to bear much fruit. I am not saying that praying with our natural understanding is wrong, but let this be a launching point, a positioning of the heart and mind to a place of stillness and quiet so we can be receptive to the influence of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians makes it clear that we need both.

1 Corinthians 14:15 (NKJV)What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.

Praying should be viewed as a partnership. It starts with natural understanding, but as we approach God, coming into step with the Spirit to partner with Him, we should expect supernatural utterances to come from our lipsPraying in the Spirit requires us to connect our thoughts and attention to the Holy Spirit inside us, praying out and praying into what rises in our hearts. Spirit-led prayer requires dependence upon His leading and a willingness to follow even when it doesn’t seem to make sense.

Although we are to come boldly to the throne of grace, we should approach with humility. After all, we have an audience with the King of the universe. Hearing His voice and sensing His direction becomes easy when we have a humble heart. Humility gives us a higher perspective and brings us to the place with the most extraordinary light. It is the place of greater sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Humility brings His grace to the scene, and our prayers become filled with His divine influence and direction.

James 4:6 (NKJV) But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

We partner with God in prayer, recognizing that we are here for His good pleasure. We pursue His will, plan, and purpose even when we pray for ourselves. We provide the vessel in this partnership, and He fills it with His divine will and purpose. We then pour out the mystery of His will with our prayers, inviting His influence and expecting His involvement. When approaching prayer with an expectation of partnering with God, we are more likely to have a listening ear than simply a running mouth. 

A mindless recital of prayer should become a thing of the past. Effectual, fervent prayer should become a lifestyle of supernatural engagement that partners with God to shape our future and impact the world around us.

James 5:13-16 (NKJV)s anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

When we find ourselves at a place in prayer with the perspectives described above, we are praying in the Spirit, whether in a known or unknown tongue.

Praying in tongues

There is more confusion over praying in tongues than any other type of prayerPraying in tongues is a New Testament doctrine. I see no scriptural evidence of it ending or being “done away with.” However, I continue to see a lot of misunderstanding and unbiblical demonstration throughout the Church, which needs to be addressed. First, I will share my personal experience with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

On November 7th of 1988, I was born again. a few weeks after my conversion, being completely unchurched and having had no exposure to any teaching about praying in tongues, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues while alone in my bedroom.

I was reading the book of Acts for the second time. I saw that there was more available to me than what I was currently experiencing, so I prayed, “Lord, if there is more of You available to me, I want it.” The Lord then baptized me in His Holy Spirit.

When the Spirit of God came on me, I felt power like electricity all over my body, and it felt like my tongue was as big around as a soda can. I could hear these crazy-sounding words and syllables in my head but resisted saying them out of my mouth because this was all too strange. When I finally yielded to what was happening inside me, I said a few sentences in an unknown tongue and then stopped because it freaked me out. I could not deny that I had a genuine experience and felt the power of God all over me. I just didn’t understand what happened.

No one taught me, no one prayed over me, and no one laid hands on me. I simply saw it in His word and asked for it. God is good!

Here is my concern from over 30 years of observation. Many who claim to have the baptism of the Holy Spirit speak a sentence or two in “tongues” and repeat the same things. This is the limit of their so-called “prayer language.” I have also seen people repeatedly give “messages from the Lord” by tongues and interpretation but use the same few words in tongues, maybe changing the order of the words a bit. However, the interpretation is always different.

I am not saying these people have not been baptized in the Spirit. I question their understanding and their expression to the body of Christ. I believe that some things are out of order.

Are they being done with an understanding that they are handling holy things and representing a sacred God? Is it being done in fear of the Lord? Are these things edifying the Church? It is a serious thing to speak publicly and claims these words are from the Lord.

My understanding of scripture is that praying in tongues should be limited in public unless accompanied by an interpretation. 1 Corinthians 14 addresses this issue.

1 Corinthians 14:22-25 (NKJV) Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 23 Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.

How we represent God in any setting is a serious thing. We are responsible for being an example to others to the best of our ability. We are all at different places in our journey with the Lord. We should not be too quick to follow others’ examples unless we are confident that they represent the Holy Spirit well.

We can all grow in our understanding, humility, and fear of the LordLet us not put God in the tiny box of our limited experience. Instead, let’s ask Him to elevate our experience and understanding to match what the Bible teaches.

Praying in the Spirit is a beautiful thing. It is yielding to the influence of the Holy Spirit, letting Him define us and shape us as we pray in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication.

Chapter 22 – Pet sins

Many of us have pets—an animal to keep, feed, and care for. We can become so close to our pets that we consider them family members. They provide companionship and comfort when we are hurt, depressed, or suffering from anxiety. Pets are always there when we need them, and they never fail to give us that dose of “feel good” when we seem to need it most.

Many Christians have sins they keep as pets. Familiar habits or old crisis mechanisms give them relief, comfort, and satisfaction when their flesh screams at the top of its lungs to “FEED ME!” 

A pet sin is the one we run to when we are tired or feeling weak. The sin we defend, protect, and get angry over when confronted about it.  A sin that torments us at our most vulnerable point and yet the one we can’t seem to get free from. A sin that we quickly yield to, even though we know we shouldn’t. A pet that we make provision for and feed in secret. We run to it for instant gratification and then feel guilty immediately after we yield to it.

It is possibly the most dangerous of deceptions to our souls and one that can hinder our spiritual progress. It can destroy our confidence, compromise our witness, keep us from realizing our full potential, and disqualify us from God’s abiding presence.

In spiritual warfare, the most significant battles are always the internal ones, the struggles we fight when no one else is around. Even with help and accountability, we must take up the sword of the Spirit for ourselves and conquer the things that torment us in our souls.

Before King David killed Goliath in front of two nations, he won victories over a lion and a bear when no one else was aroundGetting victory over a lion and a bear is much like overcoming a pet sin. Sometimes, it can seem just as difficult. The successes we have in private prepare us for the type of victories that will change nations.

Galatians 5:16-18 (NKJV) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Suppose we are battling to keep the flesh under control, struggling to deny it from dominating our lives. In that case, it is likely, that we have not given ourselves entirely to walking in the Spirit. We must be honest with ourselves and ask, “Am I feeding the flesh more than I am feeding the Spirit?”

We must be honest with ourselves and be willing to make the changes necessary to get the victory. Walking in the Spirit has two distinct characteristics and can be easily measured in our livesObtaining freedom from tormenting sin must start with this simple, two-part assessment.

  1. Am I walking faithfully in what I have learned from God’s written word?

Obedience to what we learn from the Lord is the foundation of walking in the Spirit and gives us the spiritual ears to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying in our hearts. If we do not start with this first step, our hearts can become hardened, and our conscience will become seared, our spiritual ears and eyes will be dulled.

This prevents us from embracing the second step of walking in the Spirit, which is hearing God’s spoken word and being led by the Spirit.

     2. Am I walking faithfully in what I am hearing and perceiving, from God’s spoken word?

Being watchful and attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit is the second step. Learning to live by the unction of the Holy Spirit, the leading of peace, and being sensitive to the still small voice inside us, are all things we must develop as we mature. However, it is challenging to be led by the Spirit if we are not committed to obeying the written word.

God is always speaking to us in some way. Without our commitment to discover and obey what God has already said in His written word, we won’t have our ears tuned to hear what He speaks by the Spirit. Neither will we have spiritual eyes to see and discern when He is leading us by the Spirit. It starts with our intimate relationship with the Lord through His written word.

Being a disciple is to live a life governed by the written word, as well as the spoken word. Only then do we become a healthy expression of the living word, Jesus Christ.

James 1:21-25 (NKJV) Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which can save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

If we are not committed to doing what we have learned from God’s written and spoken word, we quickly become self-deceived. We forget who we are and why we are here. Our identity comes into question, and we lose the ability to discern the truth.

Self-deception then becomes our reality. We begin to live a lie, believing we are disciples of Christ while refusing to follow Him. We are no longer walking in the Spirit, so we continue to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. We hang on to parts of our old nature and shackle ourselves to the enemy’s deception. We get stuck in a cycle of sin and make it our pet.

        The flesh will always war against the things of the Spirit because of its fallen nature. Everyone deals with this, even the apostle Paul, had these battles, and he describes them in Romans 7.

Romans 7:16-25 (NKJV) If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

Notice how Paul describes his sinful nature as another person? He said that if he sins, it is no longer him doing it but sin dwelling in his flesh. (verses 18-20) Paul no longer identifies himself with the fallen nature. He rejects that identity and completely embraces the freedom of his new life in Christ.

Pet sins hold us captive to the flesh and the law of sin and death. They keep us bound to the Old Testament law so that we never fully embrace the New Testament grace provided for us in Christ. It is one of Satan’s most prized deceptions.

Even after we cast those pet sins out of our house, they will try to drop by for a visit occasionally. They will ask us to feed them and look for a way to get back into our house. They may even have several of their buddies with them looking to be fed as well. It is not our house, it is God’s temple, and He has a no pets rule written into the contract.

The flesh is our enemy

Romans 8:6-8 (NKJV) or to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

The word “enmity” in verse 7 means hostile opposition or hatred toward God. The carnal mind, our flesh, is God’s enemy; therefore, it should be our enemy. We must all come to the place where we see our carnal nature as our enemy. When we do, we will be less likely to have pet sins.

God has promised to deliver us from our enemies, not our pets!

Many don’t realize we are feeding our carnal, fleshly desires. We think that what we are doing is no big deal. It is a huge deal! Let me give you some examples:

If you have been delivered from drugs and you know that it has a strong pull on your flesh, anything that would stir up old memories and desires should be avoided. Movies with drug abuse, talking about your old lifestyle, or even driving through the part of town where you used to buy drugs can all be triggers that let “the cat” in the door.

If you struggle with overeating or binging junk food, it is much easier to win the battle if you stay out of the junk-food aisle in the grocery store. If it stimulates any of your five senses, it has the potential to pull on you. If the shortest route to your destination is through an area that stirs up memories of past sins, take another course! The long way is better than the wrong way.

What about being addicted to entertainment? Surfing the internet, social media, video games? Wasting hours every day on mindless foolishness? Is that harmless? Or is it stealing the life right out of you, keeping you from things more important, and warring against your soul?

If you think it is no big deal, or if you think you are strong enough to handle it. You may wake up one day and realize that the little thing that is “no big deal” has now become your enormous pet and is demanding to be fed! If we feed our enemy, he gets stronger and has more power to harm us. If we feed our spirit, it will grow stronger and overcome the flesh.

What we feed grows. What we starve dies.

James 4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

This scripture verse may seem like a two-step program to victory over the devil, but it is not. It is a one-step program. Submitting to God IS resisting the devil. Remember that Jesus has already defeated the enemy. Submitting to God, by obedience to His word, embraces, and enforces that victory and causes that pet to run right out the door.

“Pet sins take us farther than we want to go, keep us longer than we want to stay, and cost us more than we want to pay.”

Chapter 23 – The new wineskin

What did Jesus mean when He said, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins”?

Of the 40 or so parables we see in the teachings of Jesus, only a handful are recorded in all three synoptic gospels. The parable of the wineskins is one of those and deserves our close attention.

This parable was given in the context of answering a question about fasting.

Matthew 9:14-17 (NKJV) Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. 17 Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

What does fasting have to do with wineskins? I think most of us have not made the connection between this parable and the practice of fasting. We tend to read over the passage without realizing that Jesus is teaching us a powerful truth about living with the fullness of the Spirit.

Here is Mark’s account.

Mark 2:18-22 (NKJV) The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”

19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

Jesus is using old and new wineskins, and old and new cloth, as an analogy of our old and new natures. We are born into the old carnal nature under Adam, and born again with the new nature of God, received by the Holy Spirit at our new birth in Christ.

So, what significance does fasting have in the context of this parable? Jesus was explaining to them the purpose and importance of fasting.

I see people fasting for many different reasons. Still, when you boil it down, there is only one primary reason for fasting. To break through the veil of carnal flesh so the Spirit can find its highest expression in our lives.

We live in this incredible paradox of having two natures constantly warring against each other. Jesus tells us that fasting is how we fight and win the war.

Fasting is not very popular among Christians because it requires discipline and self-denial. Some fast for the wrong reasons with little understanding and have little results.

Let’s look at Isaiah 58 and see the purpose of fasting.

Isaiah 58:6-9 (NKJV)“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.

There is much more to this chapter, and I highly recommend reading the whole thing. Still, the point is that biblical fasting is not just about denying our physical bodies food but reaching out and helping others while denying ourselves.

There is something supernatural about the combination of denying ourselves while tending to the needs of others that brings powerful breakthroughs in our lives. It frees us from bondage, breaks yokes of unbelief, brings healing to our bodies, and sets us free from things holding us back in our relationship with the Lord.

A biblical fast is not just denying the physical body but the soul, mind, and will. Fasting should include denying every part of our being that is touched by the fall of man. Bringing our whole being into subjection, so our light shines brighter and ultimately gives God more glory.

We all desire to be filled with the new wine, but God’s mercy withholds it. If He filled us with the fullness of the Spirit with our old wineskin, it would destroy us.

The fasting that Isaiah describes creates a new wineskin to contain that new wine. It increases our capacity in the Spirit and empowers us to live a sustained life of power and demonstration of the kingdom of God.

Let’s look at Luke’s account because he brings out a fascinating point that Matthew and Mark do not address.

Luke 5:33-39 (NKJV) Then they said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?”

34 And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” 36 Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise, the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. 39 And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.”

Look at verse 39. Luke recorded Jesus as saying, “no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”

Jesus tells us that our flesh will resist the change brought about by fasting. We are not going to desire to live by the Spirit immediately. Our flesh will always argue that the old way is better, leave things as they are, the old wine is good enoughand fasting is unnecessary.

When things didn’t always go smoothly for the Israelites, they started complaining and desired to return to Egypt. Even after seeing the daily provision of manna, a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, they still desired the old way, the way of bondage, the old wine.

Fasting will not be easy for anyone, but there would be no significant rewards if it were easy. The promises we see in Isaiah 58 are mind-blowing. We desire and pray for new wine, but we ask God to put it in our old wineskin. It isn’t going to happen! He loves us too much!

Because of our fallen, broken nature, we seek more of God without making the necessary sacrifices to receive more. We desire the new wine but don’t want to release the old. We are craving change yet, allowing things to remain and stagnate.

In our present culture, we are inundated with the constant temptation to consume more. More food, more stuff, more entertainment, etc. Excess results in nothing but a strong, well-developed carnal nature. We feed the monster of flesh that wars against our soul.

We must choose God if we want new wineskins with new wine. It will require the new wine to become everything Christ redeemed. New wine is vital to our lives, but more importantly, it is essential for His glory! We must choose to believe.

Are you satisfied with the old wine of your sensual nature? Most churches are pleased with the status quo of living a carnal existence while claiming Jesus as Lord. I don’t have the stomach for it anymore.

There is so much that our Father desires for us to be and to have, but it cannot co-exist with the old fallen nature. The old wineskin must be put off, and the new wineskin put on. We either choose to be who our Creator designed us to be or remain the same. The choice is new life in Christ with full kingdom power and authority or remaining distant and separate from the Father, which is described as spiritual death. (Deut. 30:15-20)

Choosing life is easy. Living the life that God has provided takes a certain amount of discipline, resolve, and self-denial. It will require us to maintain a new wineskin. It will require biblical fasting. It will require dying to self.

Matthew 16:24 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

It is impossible to follow Jesus without denying ourselves. Without this self-denial, we will not have the strength to pick up our cross.

Jesus said, “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” We are in those days.

It’s not our wineskin anymore. Jesus purchased it with His blood. Who are we to deny Him the right to change us?

Chapter 24 – Eyes that see, ears that hear

Although hearing God’s voice has been touched on in previous lessons, I want to zero in on the one thing that enables us to hear clearly from God.

The Lord asked me years ago, “How does faith come?” I immediately said, “Faith comes by hearing Lord.”  (quoting Romans 10:17). The Lord then asked: “So then how does hearing come?”   

I recalled all the scriptures that state: “he who has ears to hear let him hear,” and passages that said, “they had ears but could not hear, and eyes but could not see.” I began to see why people who confess that Jesus is their Lord have the appearance of faith but are struggling in their Christian walk and getting little results. They don’t have a hearing ear, so faith never comes.

The standard teaching is that faith comes by hearing and hearing and hearing etc. And there is truth to that line of thought. However, there are different ways to hear, and there is a difference between natural and spiritual hearing.

 Romans 10:17 (NKJV) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Let me give you a more accurate translation of this verse to make it clear.

Romans 10:17 (my paraphrase)So then faith comes by what you hear, and your hearing comes from acting on the word of God you have heard.”

Just because we have ears does not mean we can hear spiritually. The word of God alone opens our spiritual ears (our hearts). That word can come from the written and spoken word, but only the word we act on will develop our spiritual ears. When we are obedient, it demonstrates faith, and we become receptive to more instruction. Obedience is the act of faith; disobedience is the act of doubt and unbelief. Faith without the work of obedience is a dead faithand dead faith has deaf ears.

The Bible shows us repeatedly that the disobedient and rebellious people “had ears but could not hear.”

Deuteronomy 29:4 (NKJV) Yet the LORD hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.

Jeremiah 5:21 (NKJV) Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:

Ezekiel 12:2 (NKJV) Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.

Spiritual hearing only comes from the word of God that we act upon. Suppose we find ourselves unable to discern God’s voice rightly. In that case, we should humble ourselves before the Father and ask Him why. If we are rebellious or disobedient in any way, He will reveal it to us if we are sincere in our asking.

There are vast realms of understanding and revelation that we willnever acquire if we are not doers of the word. If we do not act on what we have heard, the bible says we are deceiving ourselves. When we hear the word and do nothing about it, we become spiritually deaf. 

James 1:22 (NKJV) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Matthew 13:19 (NKJV) When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.

Matthew 13:9-13 (NKJV) He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” 10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

We stunt our spiritual growth when the Lord gives us a command, and we refuse to obey Him. An obedient heart is quick to believe, receive light, and be watered, a heart that is quick to bear fruit and give glory to God.

Matthew 13:14-15 (NKJV) Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

Lack of spiritual hearing and spiritual sight comes from unbelief. Unbelief is a deception of the heart that manifests itself in many ways. It can come from rebellion, disobedience, lack of understanding, spiritual laziness, pride, or selfishness. 

Suppose we allow ourselves to continue in unbelief. In that case, we create strongholds that the enemy can hide behind and strengthen our deceptioncausing us to hear and see even less.

God has already spoken many things in His written word. Why would He be inclined to say anything else if we are not interested in what He has already said?

If we discover what God has already spoken to us and start acting on it, we will begin to develop ears to hear what the Spirit is saying.

Eyes that see

Now that we understand how to develop our spiritual ears let’s focus on what causes us to have eyes that see.

For many years I prayed, “God, help me see things, people, opportunities, and situations the way You see them. I thought that sounded like a pretty good prayer until the Lord interrupted me one day and said, “Jack, I don’t want you to pray that way anymore. Instead, pray that you see things the way I want you to see them.”

At first, I thought, “Isn’t that the same thing?” But He quickly showed me that it wasn’t. Man is not capable of seeing the way He sees. God’s ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours that the difference is immeasurable.

1 Samuel 16:9 (NKJV) But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Isaiah 55:9 (NKJV) For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

There is a way that God wants us to see everything and everyone. We cannot see how God sees because we view life from the filter of two opposing natures. The fallen nature we inherited from Adam and the nature of God that we received at the new birth. Living in this incredible paradox demands that we adapt to seeing things from a particular perspective called faith.

Faith is a perspective, not a tool to get our needs met. Faith is a narrow way of seeing, thinking, believing, and speaking. Faith is the perspective that fills our entire being with light and is formed in love and devotion to God.

Matthew 6:22-24 (NKJV) The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good (single), your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad (evil), your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

The word “good” in verse 22 is the Greek word “haplous.” It means single. It is used only one other time in Luke 11 in his account of this same passage. The word “bad” in verse 23 is the Greek word “poneros” and is always translated “evil, wicked, or wicked one.” Why is this important? Because anything other than having a faith perspective is evil.

Paul said in Romans 14:23, “whatever is not from faith is sin.”

If we do not see from a faith perspective, we see things from an evil perspective. What we look at illuminates our entire being with what we see.       

Jesus said in Matthew 24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

It is significant that this statement comes right after the instruction to have a single eye. How we see determines who we will serve.

Mammon is often defined as money. But a more accurate definition would be avarice, or better yet, selfish desire. We can’t serve money, but we can serve our selfish desires and lust for money and other earthly things. There are only two masters available to serve, God and self. To serve self is to serve mammon and the Devil. It has always been that way.

The only influence Satan can gain in our lives is through our selfish desires. In the garden of Eden, Satan deceived Eve into yielding to selfish desires. It all started when she looked at the fruit and found it desirable to eat and make one wise.

Galatians 3:6-7 (NKJV) So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

Satan did not ask her to bow down and worship him. He tricked her into being selfish and doing what she felt was suitable for herself. Essentially, he convinced her to do whatever she believed would benefit her the most. The same deception is rampant in society now. He caused her to look at and consider the wrong things, leading to her disobedience.

We only need to see and know very little if we live by faith. We are to walk in love, believing the best of every person. If we saw what was in their hearts and minds, it would be hard to think the best of them.

We only need to know the next step, not necessarily the details. The rest we walk out by faith, trusting that God knows best and that He only wants the best for us and all those involved.

The word of God gives us plenty of instruction on how we should see things, and if God’s word abides in us, it filters everything we see with spiritual insight.

I now believe that asking God to help me see things the way He would have me see them is another way of asking for His wisdom. It also removes the colossal burden of understanding every detail. If God gave us every detail in every situation, we would not need faith, and it would be impossible to please Him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Knowing that God is pleased with faith should comfort us when we don’t know all the details. Faith will always consider the unseen realm no matter what is seen with the physical eyes. Faith is a perspective anchored in love and trust, not in sight.

Paul gives a powerful lesson in Philippians about living with this perspective.

Philippians 4:6-8 (NKJV) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

If we practice verses 6 and 7, we qualify for supernatural peace. We need peace to wage supernatural warfare. Verse 8 gives us instructions on what to do while we trust God and wait for the next step. We fill our thoughts with believing the best, thinking the best, and expecting the best. It keeps our faith alive and makes our walk pleasing to God.

We don’t need to see how God sees; we only need to see enough to take the next step. Sometimes that step may look like the wrong one. That step will often go against our natural understanding, which is why supernatural peace passes our understanding. We must learn to recognize and be led by this peace.

Peace is to be the arbitrator of our life, presiding as ruler and judge over our decisions.

Colossians 3:15 (NKJV) And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

To walk by faith and have eyes that see from a supernatural perspective, we must understand the peace of God and its function in our lives. The more we walk in peace, the less we need to know all the details, and we will be better equipped to live our lives with a single eye.

Chapter 25 – A kingdom divided

          The Lord has highlighted this topic to me for several years. He relentlessly brought it to my attention until I finally made it a focus of my study and prayer. At first, I searched the internet to see what the “theologians” had to say about it and nothing that I found bore witness to what the Lord was showing me. I knew that there was a part of this mystery that the Church misunderstoodso I asked the Lord what He was trying to show us. He urged me to keep looking at it and meditating on it.

I have found that there are too many “theological positions” on most of the central doctrines in the Bible. You name it, from the Trinity to the gifts of the Spirit to water baptism. This list is extensive. Sometimes we find as many as three or four different opinions and interpretations from highly respected Bible scholars, and they write volumes of books to defend their position. Are they all right? Is only one right? or is it possible that they are all wrong on some subjects? We should all judge these things carefully. It is not ok to believe a lie.

This teaching will challenge most people’s beliefs on this subject, but I believe this is from the Lord. I don’t feel the need to be right about this. If I am wrong, I pray God corrects me. I know before posting this that my revelation of this subject is incomplete. Yet, I think I have enough to articulate what the Lord is showing me. I will likely update this teaching as the Lord brings more clarity.

The word of God is too precious to trust its interpretation wholly to another individual. In my pursuit of answers on this subject, I lost a lot of confidence in other men’s opinions, even in the brightest theologians I still love and respect. Furthermore, I do not trust myself. However, I trust the Holy Spirit and have complete confidence in Him to lead us into all truth.

After years of seeking God on this topic, I have found the “Unpardonable Sin,” also known as “Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,” one of the most misunderstood subjects in the New Testament. I believe that Satan has blinded most of the Church from this truth for over two thousand years because it is one of the most significant revelations concerning our faith and our identity in Christ. I believe it to be a key component as to why we do not see the demonstration of the kingdom of God at the level we see in the Bible.

          In the gospels, we have three accounts of Jesus teaching this truth. (Matthew 12:22-37Mark 3:22-30, and Luke 12:10). Any time we see all three synoptic gospels recording teaching, we need to pay attention and ensure we “get it.”

          Matthew’s account of this interaction is the most complete, so I will use that text for most of this teaching. It is a long text, so I will unpack it as we read, making comments along the way.

Matthew 12:22-37 (NKJV) Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. 23 And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” 24 Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

          The Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out devils by the devil’s authority. They said the power in Jesus to bring about deliverance and healing was by the same power that bound the demonized man.

          Many make the mistake of assuming that the Pharisees were the ones committing the unpardonable sin when actually, they accused Jesus of committing it. Pay close attention to what Jesus emphasized in His response to this accusationThe underlined portions of scripture give us important insight into what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit looks like.

25 But Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. 

          Jesus was not rebuking the Pharisees for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. He was correcting them, explaining why their accusation of Him was impossible because power doesn’t come from a divided kingdom. Specifically, a kingdom divided against itself.

           Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit has to do with a divided kingdom, a divided city, or a divided house.

The key to this passage is the statement, “A divided kingdom will not stand.” The unpardonable sin has to do with the kingdom of God inside us being a divided kingdom. It is why the Church has become virtually powerless and does not walk in the authority of the kingdom of God. Jesus repeatedly said, “the kingdom of God has come upon you,” when he healed someone or cast out a devil. If we do not see the fruit of the kingdom of God coming upon people, we should ask ourselves; Is it possible that our kingdom is divided?

Many have wondered why the Church lacks the demonstration of signs, miracles, and wonders that we all know are available. Where is the disconnect? What is lacking? Is God a withholder? Or are we trying to “do Christianity” from a divided kingdom? In the kingdom of God, there can never be two opposing powers. God does not share His throne, His Kingdom, or His temple.

Let’s read on.

29 Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 

          Who is this “strongman” that Jesus is referring to? Remember, He is still talking about a kingdom divided against itself. Self is the strongman. The word plunder is used twice in this verse and literally means to seize. Have we allowed God to capture our hearts and take over our house? Are we allowing His kingdom to grow, or are we willfully withholding some of our selfish desires? Have we wholly submitted our will to the will of the Father, or are we living our Christian life on our terms?

The strength of our fallen nature is our free will, our ability to choose sin. If our will is not entirely submitted to the will of the Father, we are a kingdom divided.

Free will represents the sovereignty of self and must be bound before the Holy Spirit can seize our house and take control. The kingdom of “self” is a strongman. The strongman must be crucified before the kingdom of God can have full reign. God will not share space with anything unholy.

We see in the Old Testament temple and the tent of meeting that God is very particular about where He abides. He is Holy and must be revered as such.

Next verse.

30 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.

          Why does Jesus comment, “he who is not with me is against me?” Is He talking about the Pharisees speaking against Him, or is He still talking about what is inside Him and by what power He does these miracles?

When we are born again, suddenly we have two persons, with two wills, inhabiting one body, which is now God’s temple. Two persons, two choices, our will, and God’s will. Our will must be submitted to the Holy Spirit’s will for the kingdom to stand. If we refuse to allow the Holy Spirit to take control of the temple that Christ purchased, we are a house divided, and the house will not stand.

          Jesus has free will. As a man, He has always had the ability to say no to the Father. We see Him struggle with that in prayer before He went to the cross. He asked the Father if there was any possible way to let this cup pass from Him, but He said, “nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” He had to submit His free will to the Father, just like you and I. If Jesus did not have the option to choose sin, He would not have had the power to destroy sin in the flesh.

          Consider how hard it must have been for Jesus to know what would happen to Him at the cross and choose to submit to it. Even after an angel came and strengthened Him, He was still in agony to the point of sweating blood! (Luke22:43-44This represented His greatest battle between choosing His will over the Father’s. Had He chosen His will, He would have been guilty of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Praise God He didn’t!

          We see Him function in full kingdom authority and power because He laid down His free will and never picked it up. He allowed the Holy Spirit to bind the strongman. He could do nothing of Himself. He only did what He saw the Father do. The kingdom of God inside Him was never divided and never stopped increasing.

         Jesus laid aside His sovereignty as God to take on the sovereignty of man. He then cast the crown of man’s sovereignty at the feet of the Father and refused to pick it up again. This was an act of complete submission. It is how Jesus was able to do what He did. Furthermore, He said, “Follow Me.” Meaning we can do the same.

Matthew 16:24 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

What did Jesus say to do before we could follow Him? Deny yourself, then pick up your cross and follow me. Without a lifestyle of self-denial, we will live a life with a divided kingdom.

Luke 17:21 (NKJV) nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

The Garden of Eden is the Old Testament type of the kingdom of God, and there are still two trees in the garden of our hearts. The Holy Spirit is the tree of life. Our free will is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God’s instruction for the garden still applies to the kingdom of God within us.

Genesis 2:16-17 (NKJV) And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

          Did Adam fall and die when he ate of the tree? No, he lost the glory of God that clothed him and broke the oneness of the relationship with God that empowered and sustained him. Spiritual death is separation from oneness with our Father. Oneness is entirely dependent on self-denial.

          God gave us our free will and creativity to express our love for Him and serve His purposes. We are here for His good pleasure, not ours. When we use those awesome gifts for selfish reasons that oppose God, we are a house divided and guilty of the unpardonable sin. Willful disobedience is the fruit of unbelief. When we operate in selfishness, we eat from the tree of our free will and demonstrate our distrust. On some level, it breaks down our relationship with the Father. It separates us from the life of God that is only found through intimacy with Him.

          Let’s read on.

31 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

         This is the portion of scripture that trips people up. The phrase, “it will not be forgiven in this age or in the age to come,” has Christians wondering if they have committed the unpardonable sin and have lost their salvation.

          To be clear, only Christians can commit the unpardonable sin, but it does not cause us to lose our salvation. However, it disqualifies us from kingdom authority and blessing and also rewards at the judgment seat of Christ.

          We see an example of this in 1 Corinthians 5Paul was correcting the Church at Corinth about them allowing a man committing adultery with his mother to remain in the congregation. Obviously, a kingdom is divided if a Christian commits adultery with his mother. Paul instructed the Church on dealing with this man, giving us insight into the scope and the judgment of the unpardonable sin.

1 Corinthians 5:5 (NKJV) deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Even though this man was guilty of practicing gross sin and blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, Paul said deliver him to Satan, meaning banish him from the fellowship of Christ’s body, so that his body could be destroyed and his spirit saved at the coming of the Lord. The kingdom of God in him did not stand. He lost fellowship with the Lord and the body of Christ but clearly, did not lose His salvation. Any works this man accomplished while living in this sin will have no rewards in Heaven.

We must ask ourselves why we haven’t seen this level of spiritual authority or righteous judgment practiced in the Church lately.

          The unpardonable sin has nothing to do with losing our salvation or going to hell. It has nothing to do with the Great White Throne judgment in Revelation 20. Jesus is talking about the kingdom of God on Earth, which is in our hearts, and the Judgment Seat of Christ that we will face in Heaven, where our works will be tried with fire. We will have no rewards for any works we perform in the name of the Lord and His kingdom while we have a divided kingdom in our hearts.

          We can repent for our blasphemy and move forward in God because he is merciful. However, the judgment of these past blasphemies will remain in this life and in the age to come.

          What does He mean by not being forgiven in this age?

          When we refuse to embrace the new life God has purchased for us by the blood of Jesus, we are guilty of blasphemy. We are guilty of blasphemy when we deny God’s right to inhabit and seize our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit, preferring the bondage and depravity that Christ has set us free from. When we walk in the kind of unbelief the Israelites did in the wilderness, we blaspheme the Holy Spirit. When we succumb to pride and take credit for God’s work through us, we blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

          The children of Israel and their journey in the wilderness are a type of the Church today and the most prominent example of the unpardonable sin. Did God forgive Israel’s unbelief and allow them to enter the promised land anyway? NO! Neither will He forgive us for having a divided kingdom and allow us access to all the promises of the kingdom of God on Earth or give us rewards in Heaven for our unbelief.

Hebrews 10:26 (NKJV) For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 

          Suppose we do not allow the Holy Spirit to bind the strongman of self and keep it nailed to the cross. In that case, we will be denied kingdom privileges and not be trusted with the powers of the age to come. Our promised land is not an external location. The kingdom of God is within us. If the kingdom within us is divided, the authority and power of that kingdom will not stand. We will live a powerless Christian life with very little fruit. Furthermore, we will receive no rewards in Heaven for the little fruit we produce.

          We do not lose our citizenship in Heaven, but we receive no rewards in Heaven for our works on Earth. We are also denied the authority and power of the kingdom of God on Earth. God cannot forgive this kind of unbelief and grant us the powers of the age to come.

          Conscious and hardened resistance to the Holy Spirit leads us away from humility and repentance to pursue our desires.

A Tree Known by Its Fruit

          Here is the conclusion of Jesus teaching and rebuking the Pharisees over their comment.

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

          Blasphemy is to speak or act against. We must align our actions and language to agree with the work of the Holy Spirit. Our submission to the Father is required for full kingdom authority. This submission is measurable by the fruit on our tree. We can produce any fruit we desire because of our free will.

          Our actions and words bear the fruit of what we believe. We must guard both to “make the tree good.”

          The words we speak are far more significant and influential than we understand. Furthermore, our words and actions reveal our faith and identify our tree. They make the tree good or bad.

          The fruits of the Spirit hang off the branches of the tree. We are the branches and can determine what kind of fruit we produce. To make the tree good, we choose to produce the fruits of the Spirit and refuse to produce the fruits of unrighteousness.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

          To make our tree good, we plant ourselves by the river of living water by delighting in God’s word, keeping it before our eyes and in our mouths. This discipline plants the incorruptible seed in our hearts, making it easier to grow the fruits of the Spirit on our tree.

Psalm 1:1-3 (NKJV) Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.

          Before becoming a Christian, we had little control over the fruit we produced because we were sinful trees with sinful roots. Regardless of the fruit’s appearance, the tree was evil; therefore, the fruit was bad.

          Once we accept Jesus as Lord, He is now our root, making the whole tree holy. If we still choose to produce the fruit of selfishness, bitterness, envy, jealousy, strife, and other such fruit, we blaspheme the Holy Spirit. We say in our hearts and to the world watching that this is the fruit of Christ. We then invite the judgment of demonic influence into our lives and bring reproach on God’s great name.

James 3:13-18 (NKJV) Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

John 15:1-8 (NKJV) “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Examples of Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

          Any New Testament doctrine must be found and verified in the Old Testament by scriptural precedent or spiritual type. The Old Testament is full of examples of the unpardonable sin, and we find it in the New Testament as well. Studying these examples will help us better understand the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and confirm what is being taught here. The following are just a few of those examples.

Old Testament types of the unpardonable sin

          Moses and Aaron not being allowed into the promised land because of their blasphemy at the waters of Meribah is a great example. Numbers 20:6-13

         God called it unbelief and said they failed to sanctify Him as holy in the sight of the people. They sanctified themselves in front of the people instead. (This goes on in churches all the time.)

          Moses had a moment of pride in the sight of God’s people. He said, “shall we bring water from the rock?” (Meaning him and Aaron) and didn’t speak to the rock as God commanded him but struck it like he did the first timetrying to reproduce what God did previously.

          God called it unbelief because Moses didn’t hold up Him alone as holy to the people. Instead, he held himself and Aaron up in the sight of the congregation. This single act of unbelief disqualified both Moses and Aaron from entering the Promise Land on Earth.

Moses and Aaron repented of their sin, and God did Forgive them and allow them to move forward, but the judgment remained. Their blasphemy disqualified them from entering the promised land. It was unforgivable.

Moses pleaded with God to let him enter the promised land, and God said, “no, and don’t bring it up again.” It didn’t keep them out of Heaven. Still, we can surmise that they would get no rewards for this supernatural act of bringing water from the rock. Because of this incident, they disqualified themselves from leading God’s people to the promised land. Their sin was unpardonable.

Strange Fire

          Nadab and Abihu are another example. Leviticus 10. They offered strange fire before the Lord. “Strange” means unauthorized, foreign, or profane. They just decided to do their own thing. God rejected their sacrifice. Because they were treating holy things with no reverence, He consumed the two men with fire. (Leviticus 10:2)

How many times have Christians stepped out to do their own thing? 

          A New Testament example is Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. They “lied” to the Holy Spirit and died on the spot! I can only surmise that this stark example was put in the New Testament so we could see the seriousness of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

In Exodus 33, we see the explanation of what happened to them.

Exodus 33:1-3 (NKJV) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

          This is shocking! God would send them to the promised land with supernatural protection and provision. Still, He wasn’t going with them because He didn’t want to consume them. I believe the Church is in this condition today. I think we have decided to move forward into the promised land without Him. We see a measure of His supernatural protection and provision, but He is not going with us. Why? Because He is our promised land and our inheritance. The Church doesn’t realize this.

          God was abiding in the early Church when the harsh judgment fell on Ananias and Sapphira. I used to wonder why this happened to them and why we don’t see instances of it in the Church today. It is evident to me now. God moves upon His Church from time to time. Just like the children of Israel, we experience Him from a distance. He doesn’t abide in His people in fullness because He loves the Church and doesn’t want to see her destroyed like Ananias and Sapphira. It breaks my heart.

          The Spirit in us is holy. I think we fail to understand what holiness is in God’s eyes. God will not forgive us in this age for our lack of reverence and allow us to operate in the powers of the age to come. The few supernatural things we see in operation in the Church are much like the children of Israel in the wilderness. (Which is possibly the most remarkable example of the unpardonable sin) They saw the provision and power of God daily for forty years and still did not believe in God for more than a minute. God put them in the wilderness to test them, to see if they were worthy of the promise of His abiding presence.

Deuteronomy 8:2 (NKJV) And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

          It is blasphemy when we receive the Holy Spirit and willfully continue to practice lawlessness. Anything we accomplish in the name of the Lord while practicing lawlessness, doing things for selfish, prideful, and deceitful reasons, disqualifies us from the full power of the kingdom of God on Earth and disqualifies us from any rewards at the judgment seat of Christ.

          God will not forgive this behavior and allow us to operate in His full power and authority. God is merciful and works with us as much as He can because He is good and loves us. However, anything supernatural that we accomplish when our heart is impure disqualifies us from any rewards for those accomplishments at the judgment seat of Christ. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “this sin will not be forgiven in the age to come.”

I Never Knew You

Matthew 7:22-27 (NKJV) Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

An obedient disciple is a house built on the Rock

24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

A disobedient disciple is a house that will not stand

26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Obedience is the “love language of God.” Disobedience is the act of unbelief and eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

          As we honor God’s word, the kingdom within us grows, and so does our kingdom authority. We must learn to reverence the work of the Holy Spirit in us if we are to follow Jesus and become His disciples. He would not have said “follow Me” if it wasn’t possible. 

The Church must stop warring against the Holy Spirit’s transforming work. The only way to avoid the unpardonable sin is to remain in an intimate relationship with the Father. Intimacy with Him creates a burning desire to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Without intimacy, we will never produce the fruit of who He is.

Chapter 26 – The fear of the Lord

The term spiritual warfare is another way of describing everyday Christian living. Still, the label of spiritual warfare puts our redeemed life in proper perspective. It gives us an expectation of impending conflict. The fear of the Lord may be the most significant thing we can learn concerning spiritual warfare.

If spiritual warfare was a wheel, and all the spokes of the wheel were different aspects of spiritual warfare, the fear of the Lord would be the hub of that wheel. Fear of God holds all the spokes together in their proper place and keeps them in perfect alignment.

The Bible is full of instruction concerning the fear of the Lord, but we rarely see it taught with any depth or clarity. I believe the main reason for this is that the Church, for the most part, has lost the fear of the Lord. We have almost no one to model the fear of the Lord for us and what we see modeled is religious fear and the fear of man.

Religious Fear

Isaiah 29:13 (NKJV) Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,

Religious fear is marked by religious activity and a works mentality. It often comes from a desire to be involved in a religious organization, like a church or ministry that appeals to our itchy ears. Religious fear is a fear taught by men and does not bring a person’s heart closer to God. It is not motivated by the fear of the Lord but by religious conformity to a particular doctrine or religious practice.

People bound by religious fear attend church and experience the presence of the Lord in worship but go home and remain unchanged. They attend church but never become the Church. They bear little fruit and show no spiritual growth, just increased religious knowledge. They fear engaging people with the gospel, so they only engage in outreach by donating money, but not their time and energy.

Fear of Man

Proverbs 29:25 (NKJV) The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.

 The fear of man is driven by a desire for approval by a person or an organization. When bound by the fear of man, our primary way of learning about the Bible is to allow other men to teach us without having a real hunger for reading and understanding the Bible for ourselves.

The Bible is the only book that is alive. As we seek God through the living scriptures, there are certain parts of the Bible the Lord will highlight and emphasize to us personally. Suppose we trust the reading and interpretation of God’s word wholly to others. In that case, we will never discover the fullness of what God is saying to us personally. We must all find ourselves in the scriptures.

Another type of fear we need to identify is demonic fear.

Demonic Fear

Romans 8:15 (NKJV) For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

1 John 4:18 (NKJV) There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

Demonic fear is unnatural, unreasonable, and tormenting. It binds and enslaves, making us feel powerless against it. Demonic fear is a clear indicator that we need a revelation of the love of God and that we lack an intimate relationship with the Father.

God is Love. If we seek intimacy with God when no one else is looking, love will soon break the power of demonic fear. We see in 1 John 4:18 that love has no fear and that perfect love casts out fear. By this, we know that the fear of the Lord is very different from the three types of fear mentioned above.

So, what is the fear of the Lord?

The fear of the Lord is a supernatural perspective that comes from an understanding that God created us, and we are here for His good pleasure. It is a natural expression of sincere worship reserved for God alone. The fear of the Lord has profound effects on every aspect of our lives. It is the reasonable response to His holiness, omnipotence, and majesty.

The fear of the Lord is holy awe. A reverential admiration producing a desire for absolute obedience and a need to treasure Him in worship. The fear of the Lord births a holy hatred for sin and a submissive heart that desires always to be pleasing to the Father.

The fear of the Lord is a doorway to signs and wonders. When we lose the fear of the Lord, we sacrifice much of the supernatural in our lives and church gatherings. We are left with an atmosphere that God frequently visits, but not a temple that He abides in and moves through.

The fear of the Lord is one of the sevenfold expressions of the Spirit of God. To better understand the fear of the Lord, we must familiarize ourselves with the person and nature of the Holy Spirit. The seven distinct expressions of the Holy Spirit are listed in Isaiah 11:2 and also referred to in Revelation 4:5 and 5:6.

Isaiah 11:1-3 (NKJV) There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. His delight is in the fear of the Lord, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;

This is a prophecy about Jesus and the sevenfold expressions of the Holy Spirit that marked Him as the Messiah. The same Holy Spirit now abides in every believer. In verse 3, we see that above all, Jesus delighted in the fear of the Lord.

In Hebrews, we see how the fear of God caused Jesus’s prayers to be heard and answered.

Hebrews 5:7 (NKJV) who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear

If the fear of the Lord was necessary for Jesus to have His prayers heard and answered, how much more important should it be for us?

In Malachi 3, we see an interesting dialog about the fear of the Lord. As God was rebuking and correcting His people for complaining, some feared the Lord and had a conversation amongst themselves. They were not praying, just talking with one another.

Malachi 3:16-17 (NKJV) Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. 17 “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”

God hears and answers the prayers of those who fear Him and listens to every conversation. A book of remembrance was written in Heaven because of their Godly fear and meditation on His great name. God said of those that feared Him, “They shall be mine, and I will make them my jewels.”

Consider just how important the fear of the Lord is to our Heavenly Father.

Isaiah 33:6 (NKJV) Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, And the strength of salvation; The fear of the Lord is His treasure.

The fear of the Lord is so precious in God’s eyes that He describes it as His treasure! God’s treasure is when we see Him with a clear and proper perspective. To fear Him is to treasure Him. This is expressed by complete submission and living with an awareness of His eternal position.

The fear of displeasing Him, the fear of disobeying Him, the deep respect for those things he calls holy. God treasures this. To fear the Lord is to see God as our treasure.

Matthew 6:21 (NKJV) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Blessings of the Fear of the Lord

Attached to the fear of the Lord are more promises and blessings than any other theme mentioned in the Bible, as far as I can tell. Other than being God’s treasure, let’s look at some of the other blessings that the fear of the Lord brings.

Psalm 111:10 (NKJV) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.

Proverbs 9:10 (NKJV) “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 1:7 (NKJV) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction

Proverbs 4:7 (NKJV) Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore, get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.

Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are expressions of the seven-fold Spirit of God. Still, they all begin with the fear of the Lord. Wisdom is described as the principal thing. Meaning it is first in rank and order. Although it is defined as the main thing, wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. I think it would be safe to say that the fear of the Lord is the highest expression of wisdom.

The fear of the Lord is the catalyst by which all other expressions of the Holy Spirit are perfected. It is the tree from which all other branches of the Holy Spirit grow.

Psalm 25:14 (NKJV) The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant.

 Proverbs 20:5 (NKJV) Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But a man of understanding will draw it out.

The Spirit of counsel is another facet of the seven-fold Spirit that reveals the secret of the Lord and His covenant by the fear of the Lord. The Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of every believer.To understand and receive Godly counsel, the secret mysteries of the Lord, and to be a good steward of those mysteries, one must fear the Lord.

Proverbs 1 28-29 (NKJV) “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord,

The fear of the Lord is a choice. It is something we learn and cultivate. It is an act of our free will and the first step to complete submission.

Psalm 34:11 (NKJV) Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

Psalm 25:12 (NKJV) Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.

Psalm 86:11 (NKJV) Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.

If we choose the fear of the Lord, that is the beginning of wisdom. When we ask God to teach us the fear of the Lord, that is the beginning of knowledge and understanding.

Job 28:28 (NKJV) And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.’ 

Psalm 89:7 (NKJV) God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of thesaints, and to be held in reverence by all those around Him.

There must be a restoration of the fear of the Lord when we assemble. The reverence and awe missing in the Church will only return if we choose it and seek it. We must ask God to forgive us and teach us about the fear of the Lord so we can become the bride without a spot or wrinkle.

2 Corinthians 7:1 (NKJV) Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Holiness is perfected in fear of the Lord. We are commanded to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). The narrow pathway to holiness is through the fear of the Lord.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NKJV) Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.

What is the bottom line? Fear God and do what He says. Let’s try not to make it complicated.

Chapter 27 – Holiness

I purposely saved the subject of holiness for the final chapter. I believe that all previous lessons will help build the foundation needed to embrace our sanctification and move us toward a lifestyle of holiness.

          Holiness is the most significant expression of who God is. It is the source of His absolute moral purity and goodness. Holiness separates God with unapproachable light and sanctifies Him from all darkness and anything that would be impure, defiled, or incomplete. Holiness is the purest expression of God’s love and nature.

          The power of holiness overcomes all darkness and consumes all evil. It is not the opposite of darkness and evil but the master of it.

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NKJV) but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

          God calls us to be holy because God is calling us unto Himself. Intimacy with God is our created purpose. Without holiness, we cannot fulfill that purpose. Jesus’ work on the cross allows us the privilege of an intimate relationship with God where we partner with Him to work out our salvation and grow in our sanctification.

Ignorance of holiness brings judgment.

We have instructions throughout the Bible about the power of God’s holiness, how to treat holy things, His holy commands, and the harsh judgment for not properly reverencing His holiness.

The Church has heaped judgment upon herself because of unbelief and a lack of understanding in this area. We no longer tremble at God’s presence and reading His word. We no longer treat our assembling as holy. We have lost our understanding of sacred communion and mingled worldly practices into our corporate worship.

Where is the holy fear in God’s people? Have we wandered so far from the fear of the Lord and holy reverence? Has pride and complacency blinded our hearts to seeing God as common?

The Old and the New Testaments stress the importance of cultivating holiness in our lives. However, more and more, we gravitate toward focusing on the promises of God while neglecting the importance of sanctification.

2 Corinthians 7:1 (NKJV)Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

The fear of the Lord is inseparable from holiness. Without the fear of the Lord, holiness is incomplete and unattainable. 

1 Peter 1:13-19 (NKJV) Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 

To become holy, we must fear the tremendous power of holiness and reverence the One from whom holiness emanates. We must retrain ourselves to understand holiness and renew a holy fear in the Church that will help us treat God, His Word, and His people with reverence.

Training for holiness

          For the priests and Levites, there were detailed instructions on preparing themselves for service in the temple and how the high priest was to approach God. Without strict adherence to these rules, they could be stricken dead.

          Have you ever wondered why there are so many accounts of Israel receiving severe judgment from the Lord?

3,000 died in one day because of idolatry. (Exodus 32)

24,000 Died in a plague because of sexual immorality. (Numbers 25)

In 2 Samual 24, when King David had a census of Israel, trying to measure the strength of God’s people, it was offensive to God because He was their strength.  70,000 died in one day because of David’s sin.

After the walls of Jericho fell, a man named Achan caused Israel to be defeated in the battle with AI because he touched the holy things. He stole some garments, some silver and gold, and brought them into the camp. 36 men were killed in that battle with Ai, and Israel’s army was sent running with their tails between their legs. Here is Achan’s judgment;

Joshua 7:24-26 (NKJV) Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.

26 Then they raised over him a great heap of stones, still there to this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Achor to this day.

          Several times in scripture, one man’s sin brought judgment on the entire nation. Much like Adam’s, sin brought judgment upon all of humanity. It was not our fault that we were born under sin, yet here we are, living with two natures.

          Our lack of reverence as His body has brought the righteous judgment of God upon us by disqualifying us from the kingdom of God’s power and promises. We are citizens of the kingdom, but we are a kingdom divided, a weak and powerless people.

          After decades of the Ark of the Covenant dwelling in the house of Abinidab, king David chose thirty thousand choice men to retrieve the Ark and bring it back into the city of David with grand celebration along the way. Abinadab’s sons, Ahio and Uzzah, drove the new ox-cart on which the Ark was transported. When the oxen stumbled, and it seemed that the Ark was going to fall, Uzzah put forth his hand and touched the Ark to steady it. Although Uzzah had good intentions to keep the Ark from falling off the cart, God was angry at him for touching the holy thing and struck him dead on the spot.

2 Samuel 6:6-7 (NKJV) And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God. 

          Notice that this was simply an “error” on Uzzah’s part. There was no malice, no pride, just ignorance of the incredible power of God’s holiness.

This incident made David angry. He did not think it was just that God would strike down a man that was only trying to help, but it also stirred up the fear of the Lord in David to the point that he was afraid to bring it into the city.

2 Samuel 6:8-11 (NKJV) And David became angry because of the Lord’s outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day. David was afraid of the Lord that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” 10 So David would not move the ark of the Lord with him into the City of David; but David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And the Lord blessed Obed-Edom and all his household.   

          People still get angry at God today for these judgments, just like David did. Many ask questions like, ”how can a good God kill all those people?” Some make bold statements calling God a murderer. Could it be that God is trying to teach us something in all these harsh judgments?

What is God saying to us in all these shocking stories of incredible judgment? He is teaching us about holiness. There is great danger in mishandling it. Great power comes with it, and severe judgment falls on those who don’t respect it.

          God’s rules are set in place to protect us. If we don’t obey His commands, a system of spiritual and natural judgment is already in place. God, in His great mercy and wisdom, is trying to show us the power and importance of holiness to protect His children. If we are in a relationship with Him, we must know how to approach Him. If we are to represent Him, we must understand Him. If we are to understand Him, we must understand holiness.

No one was allowed to touch the Ark once God’s presence was there. Only the Levites were allowed to move it, and they had to carry it with poles, thrust through rings in the side of the ark. Anyone who touched the ark died instantly. The high priest had to purify himself properly and observe every detail of his priestly office, or he would be stricken down as well.

God does not allow a defiled person to touch His Holy things, and God will not abide in an unholy temple even today. We are His temple, and He will not share space in the temple with anything unholy. Unless holiness is restored in the Church, we will never see the demonstration of the kingdom of God that we see in the early Church.

The accounts of severe judgment falling on man have a common thread. They are all instructions to us about how we are to treat a holy God, His holy things, and His holy people. God uses the severity of physical judgment to teach us the magnitude of our spiritual judgment when we lack reverence and understanding of holiness.

Maybe the most remarkable example of despising God is the worldwide flood in Noah’s time. Think of the magnitude of this judgment. A world that knew only evil continually, with no thought to the holiness of God. Then consider the world we live in today.

The Bible says, “in the last days, it will be just like the days of Noah.”

Matthew 24:37-39 (NKJV) But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 

Our culture knows little about holiness because the Church has not set the standard of sanctification required to represent God well. Holiness is a big deal to God. Why is holiness not a big deal to the church anymore?

          Some time ago, I asked the Lord to teach me about His holiness. I began to pray for understanding and seek God through the scriptures while listening to the Lord’s instruction. He said nothing to me about holiness. Instead, He began to teach me about the fear of the Lord.

          It is the fear of the Lord that perfects holiness in our lives. Without the fear of the Lord, we fall into the same type of irreverent unbelief that the people in Noah’s day did and the children of Israel did in their 4o year journey in the wilderness.

Just as Israel could not enter the promised land with all its abundant blessing, the Church is living and dying in the wilderness without ever walking in the fullness of the kingdom of God.

           A tree is known by its fruit. Looking at the Church today, it is apparent that we have lost something. Where is the demonstration and power of the kingdom of God? Why are we not bearing the fruit of the kingdom we see modeled by our fathers in the faith? Have we been so corrupted by the world and blinded by its influence that we don’t understand that the Spirit God placed within us is Holy?

          We have made friends with the world by allowing sin to creep in and remain in our Church gatherings. We need to redefine our relationship with the world and each other while restoring a high level of accountability in the Church. Bold leaders must arise that can set an example of holiness and sanctification to follow, or we will continue to disqualify ourselves from the more extraordinary things of God.

The Church emphasizes an entertainment culture and the building of a religious organization instead of equipping and discipling people and leading them to a lifestyle of holiness. How are we currently being discipled? What are we reproducing? Should we continue to multiply a Church that produces attendees rather than disciples with the fruit of holiness? Where will this take us as a people?

What is our mindset when we “go to Church?” Is it for fellowship? Is it a religious duty? Do we need a boost of encouragement to make it through the rest of the week? Do we just want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves? Does it even enter our minds that what we are doing is considered holy by the Lord?

The Church must understand that it is a holy assembly of Christ’s body when we gather together. In the Old Testament, they called their gatherings “holy convocations.” There was an awareness of divine purpose and an expectation of divine direction when they gathered. Without an understanding of holiness, we will continue attending church instead of becoming her.

A vision of the body

          Some years ago, in a time of prayer, I thanked God for the body of Christ that validates Him to the world. As soon as I said that, I had a vision of an Arab man clothed in a robe and sitting in a wheelchair with His head hanging down in sadness. He was malnourished and dirty, having no use of his arms or legs. The word “INVALID” appeared out of thin air hovering over this man. As I looked closer, the man’s head lifted, and I realized it was Jesus!

          I was shocked! At that moment, I knew that we, the Church, had done a poor job validating Him to the world. The world views Christ as weak and powerless because they view us, His body, in the same way. We need the power and demonstration of the kingdom of God to validate Christ to the world. If the Church does not return its focus to the fear of God and holiness, it won’t happen.

1 Chronicles 16:29 (NKJV) Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!

Psalm 29:2 (NKJV) Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

          God commands us to “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). How is that even possible? Is God trying to trap us in our inadequacy? Is He asking us to do the impossible? Or is He calling us to an intimate relationship that is impossible to attain without an abiding faith in His ability to bring it to pass?

          God is calling us to the ultimate journey to holiness. A magnificent journey of growth and redemption leading us out of darkness and into His glorious light. The journey requires an unwavering faith that brings Him great pleasure.

As we embrace this magnificent journey, His work in us will reflect His glory and light, showing others the path to holiness. This will advance the kingdom of God far more than us following a bunch of rules.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV) We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 

          We must make a daily decision to present ourselves to God as a vessel He can use and move through. Every act of obedience leads us closer to His holiness. Every fruit of the Holy Spirit we produce contains the seed of righteousness. It is only reasonable to conduct ourselves as if we are already holy as He is holy.

Romans 12:1 (NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

We are a royal priesthood, a holy nation with a sacred calling. We can no longer tolerate living in the heresy of the world. We must come out from among them and be separate so that the light of God can shine through our lives.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NKJV) Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.” 17 Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” 18 “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

          It is time for the Church to become everything Christ has paid for. A separate, peculiar people that not only look different and behave differently but make a difference by our supernatural power and influence.

We must break fellowship with the world and be separate from it to have the influence necessary to change it. Our peculiarity, royalty, and supernatural authority must become evident to all. This will bear fruit that remains and give God great glory.

Works cited page

Scripture quotations are referenced as follows:

NKJV is the New King James version of the Bible, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

ESV is the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

MSG is The MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language, copyright © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

AMP is the Amplified Bible, copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by the Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Spiritual Warfare Manifesto

Practical lessons in Supernatural Christianity

Copyright © 2022 by Jack Coley

13861 S.W. 40th CIR

Ocala, FL. 34473-2199